Former police officer found dead http://www.privateofficer.com
Former New Orleans Police Department officer Willie Jones Jr. was shot to death just before daybreak Sunday, apparently in the moments during or after getting into a car accident on Interstate 10 in eastern New Orleans.
Jones, who had served with the New Orleans police for 18 years, was driving a dark blue, two-door BMW on the eastbound high-rise about 5:15 a.m. when he got into a wreck, NOPD spokesman officer Janssen Valencia said. About the same time, 911 operators received a report that gunshots had been fired in the area.
After the accident on the interstate, Jones, 43, drove down the Downman Road ramp toward Chef Menteur Highway, until he lost control and drove off the road. He then slammed into a fence outside of Banner Chevrolet and hit a white car parked inside the dealership.
A security guard patrolling the dealership heard the crash and checked on the cars, Valencia said. He spotted Jones and called 911.
When New Orleans paramedics arrived, Jones was dead. He had been shot once in the chest, said John Gagliano, the coroner’s chief investigator.
It is unclear when Jones was shot, Valencia said. It may have been while he was driving, or after the wreck on the interstate.
Jones joined the NOPD in 1988 and spent much of his career patrolling the 5th District. Officers said he performed well on the job, but he resigned facing allegations that he had beat his wife one evening.
Jones led an “exceptional” career and won several awards and citations, said Deputy Chief Bruce Adams, who worked with Jones in the 5th District.
He won a departmental citation in 2001 as part of the 5th District’s Community Oriented Policing Services unit, a defunct federal program that stationed uniformed officers in public housing complexes.
Two years later, Jones earned a Medal of Commendation, an award that recognizes officers “who show exceptional enforcement action, such as preventing a major crime or apprehending a dangerous criminal following the commission of a felony,” according to the NOPD
Assistant Superintendent Marlon Defillo said, “By all accounts, he was a professional committed to his community and the department.”
Valencia said Jones’ career ended shortly after the Police Department’s Public Integrity Bureau investigated him in connection with a domestic dispute reported on July 5, 2006, when he was assigned to the 2nd District. According to a news release published after the incident, police investigators booked Jones into the Orleans Parish jail with one count of simple battery.
The news release said investigators went to Jones’ eastern New Orleans home and found his wife had a number of bruises. The department immediately suspended him without pay. Valencia said Jones resigned shortly after.
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New Orleans sheriffs using high-tech license plate scanning http://www.privateofficer.com
After just 25 days, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office has racked up 20 arrests and recovered stolen 23 vehicles and license plates using its new automated license-plate recognition cameras.
Sheriff Newell Normand provided an update Wednesday on the system of 76 fixed and mobile cameras that are programmed to scan the plates of passing vehicles, almost immediately identifying ones that have been reported stolen.
“We’re very excited about the technology,” Normand said.
So far, the department has deployed 32 stationary cameras mounted on poles throughout the parish. An additional 44 cameras in sets of four are mounted on 11 patrol cars, allowing deputies to scan vehicles that pass on each side, as well as vehicles traveling in the opposite direction.
The cameras also can scan cars in parking lots. Each camera is programmed to capture a still image of a passing vehicle and its license plate, instantaneously checking it against a database of stolen vehicles. The cameras can scan, or record a “hit” on, whatever passes by its lens, even at speeds of as much as 80 miles per hour.
Stolen car alerts on mobile units pop up immediately on the laptop computers inside of patrol cars. Alerts from stationary cameras go to the 911 center and are then sent out to supervisors and other personnel.
So far, the 44 mobile cameras have averaged about 800 hits per hour, while the stationary cameras get about 1,000 hits per hour, said Capt. Michael DeSalvo Jr., direction of management information systems.
Before the cameras, the Sheriff’s Office used to recover about three to four stolen vehicles per month, officials have said. That’s because deputies usually discovered a car was hot only after performing a traffic stop and running the license plate manually.
“The likelihood of that is kind of a needle-in-a-haystack situation,” Normand said. The license-plate recognition technology makes recovery efforts more efficient.
In addition to collaring car thieves, Normand said the system can also help deputies look for suspects in armed robberies, burglaries or other violent crimes, providing multiple eyes around the parish that can track either a license plate or vehicle description provided by a victim or witness.
The system can also be used to locate sex offenders, wanted felons or cars connected to Amber Alerts. And the license plate recognition software doesn’t require heavy staffing.
“It significantly enhances out ability to solve crimes in Jefferson Parish,” said Capt. Emile Larson, deputy commander of narcotics.
The cameras don’t come cheap. Each stationery camera, plus software, costs about $14,000. The mobile units, including all four cameras and accessories, run about $25,000 per car. The Sheriff’s Office spent $626,680 on the cameras, paid for through two federal grants, officials have said.
But Norman expects the program to double in size by the end of 2009. The department has already secured money to buy a few additional cameras. At least one civic group on the West Bank has committed to buying a camera for its neighborhood. And other business and neighborhood associations are considering the same. Normand said the Sheriff’s Office will cover the costs of operations and maintenance if groups buy the equipment.
The Sheriff’s Office has already placed cameras in Gretna. But other law enforcement agencies, including the Kenner and Causeway police departments, are also mulling over the license-plate recognition technology, Larson said.
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Casino security officer shoots self toying with gun http://www.privateofficer.com
The New Orleans Police Department confirmed Tuesday that a man who shot himself Saturday outside Harrah’s New Orleans Casino was providing security.
“He was assigned to watch over valet parking,” said Janssen Valencia, a New Orleans Police Department spokesman.
Police were informed sometime before 10 p.m. that someone had been shot outside Harrah’s at 8 Canal Street.
“Ricky Matthew Jr., who works for BlackHawk Security, shot himself in the thigh,” Valencia said. “The bullet entered and exited the thigh. He is in stable condition.”
Matthew, 23, was hospitalized and was issued a summons, in lieu of arrest, on a charge of illegal discharge of a firearm, Valencia said.
Police viewed video captured at the scene and “observed the subject playing with his gun,”
Sandie McNamara, Harrah’s vice president for marketing, declined to comment about the relationship between the security company and the casino or say whether Matthew will continue to provide security at the casino.
“It’s a police matter,” she said.
Officer Garry Flot, another New Orleans Police Department spokesman, said earlier that no information was available to explain why Matthew was handling his weapon Saturday night in the valet area.
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More than 100 hurricane evacuees arrested http://www.privateofficer.com
In Atlanta, four suspects, male and female, were apprehended by the Atlanta police stealing high end jeans and other merchandise from two retailers on Thursday. All four had been evacuated from the New Orleans area prior to Monday’s hurricane.
Police in Louisville say that they have arrested nearly two dozen people who were evacuated from hurricane zones in Louisiana.
Most of the charges have been alcohol-related. But Lt. Col. Phil Turner of Louisville Metro Police says one arrest made Tuesday was on a felony sexual abuse charge after a man attempted to grab a teenage boy at the Kentucky Exposition Center, where a shelter has been set up.
Turner told The Courier-Journal that the sexual abuse charge was the most serious of the 22 arrests made and the only one that occurred inside the facility.
Turner says 16 evacuees were arrested Wednesday night on charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct and other alcohol-related charges. Five more arrests were made Tuesday on alcohol and disorderly conduct charges.
Officers are providing security for the evacuees at the center.
In Fort Smith Arkansas a day before Gustav evacuees at Fort Chaffee were to begin loading buses for home, three New Orleans residents were arrested at a Fort Smith Wal-Mart.
Thursday afternoon, Fort Smith Police were called to back up off-duty Sebastian County Sheriff’s deputies, who had been acting as security at the Zero Street Wal-Mart. Captain Bill Hollenbeck says a Wal-Mart employee had tried to stop a 16-year-old who had allegedly tried to steal some merchandise.
“He resisted being detained, which in Arkansas makes that a robbery,” says Capt. Hollenbeck. “A large crowd started to gather… A second subject was arrested then for felony terroristic threatening and assault on a police officer, and then we had a third subject who was arrested for disorderly conduct.”
Two of the suspects, including the alleged shoplifter, were juveniles. The third, Raymond Perry, was tasered before he was taken into custody in suspicion of assaulting an officer.
It was another incident where New Orleans residents accused of shoplifting had quickly discovered the differences between Arkansas and Louisiana law; two other evacuees had been arrested earlier in the week in suspicion of shoplifting at the Wal-Mart on Rogers Avenue.
“In New Orleans, when you shoplift, it depends on how much money it is,” said one evacuee at Fort Chaffee. “If it’s over 500 dollars, you’ll go to jail but if it’s like under 500, they’ll give you a citation and you can’t go to any Wal-Marts.”
“They’re not given any money out here, people down here broke, and they trying to take care of their family and get things that they need,” said another New Orleans resident.
Perry and the two juveniles remained in jail Thursday night pending a bond hearing.
Police elsewhere in Arkansas and Tennessee have also arrested numerous persons evacuated from the hurricane zone by bus on charges of theft, assault, possession of narcotics and an array of other charges. One of the most serious reported was an armed robbery and attempted carjacking.
Closer to the hurricane area, police in Bastrop, La. say that a few out-of-towners are making a little mischief around Bastrop.
Within the last forty-eight hours, three individuals from Lake Charles and one from Metarie have been arrested.
The Morehouse Parish Sheriff’s Office arrested Jordan Davis, 18, of Lake Charles, at the WalMart shelter.There was a complaint of drug use under the former garden area. When officials went to investigate, there was a “strong smell of marijuana,” Sheriff Mike Tubbs said. Davis started a commotion and was using obscene language trying to get other evacuees “riled up.” As officers went to arrest him, Davis kicked one of the guards.
“They’re tired and have short patience. Everyone is irritated,”Tubbs said. “But when they start that with officers and others, we remove them from the facility.” Davis was charged with resisting arrest, indecent exposure, loud and profane language, criminal property damage and battery of an officer.
Another incident involved a Donovan White, 20, of Metarie. At the shelter, there is a security process to enter the facility. White did not want to go through the metal detectors and caused a slight scene. He was arrested for disturbing the peace. Both Davis and White are in the Morehouse Jail.
Two other incidents occured at the new WalMart store around noon Sept. 2. police said.
A loss prevention officer with the Bastrop Police Department observed Harry Bell, 51, and April M. Bell, 28, both of Lake Charles, take a man’s belt worth $8.44, a pack of crew socks worth $5 and two pairs of athletic shoes worth $40 from the store.
Both individuals were arrested and charged with theft by shoplifting.They were also told not to go back to WalMart.
NOPD officer dies from wreck off bridge http://www.privateofficer.com
Shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday, Tommie Felix’s silver BMW moved up onto an open drawbridge, past a safety barrier that failed to drop, and careered off the roadway, plunging into darkness.
Felix, 43, a veteran New Orleans police officer and father of five, failed to free himself from the driver’s seat as his car sank into the Industrial Canal. Meanwhile, cars screeched to a halt on the Judge Seeber Bridge; one witness recalled seeing headlights disappear into the night, followed by a “loud bang.”
By late morning, the Coast Guard had found the car below the Claiborne Avenue bridge and recovered Felix’s body. By midday, the New Orleans Police Department was mourning the loss of a beloved officer — the third time in seven months the department has done so.
The accident remains under investigation, officials said, but details released Tuesday outline how the bridge’s alert system may have failed the longtime narcotics officer, who before his sudden plunge had survived high-speed chases and gunshot wounds while serving his city.
State transportation department investigators will scrutinize the bridge’s safety mechanisms. NOPD traffic investigators already have learned that the bridge control arm — the white-and-red-striped, lighted safety barrier — was “not in the down position,” according to an NOPD news release.
That gate, which swings down across the roadway to stop motorists, is controlled by an operator in a booth above the roadway, said William Ankner, secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development.
The Judge Seeber Bridge, which passes over the Industrial Canal on Claiborne Avenue in the 9th Ward, is a vertical-lift drawbridge. The bridge’s central plank rises along the lift structure in one piece, leaving only safety gates to block cars from falling into the water below.
The state transportation department, which operates the drawbridge, on Tuesday began a full-scale evaluation to find out how the accident happened, Ankner said.
Ankner said engineers will examine the mechanics of the bridge and the actions of the operator, who has been suspended with pay pending the investigation.
“I want to make sure this tragedy never happens again,” Ankner said.
A ship was passing through the Industrial Canal around the time of the accident, Ankner said. Investigators interviewed the captain, Ankner said.
— Bridge-raising routine —
The operator must follow a set sequence when raising the bridge for shipping traffic, Ankner said. First, the operator puts on the warning light, which is a traffic signal, to tell cars the bridge will be lifted. Next, a gate with attached flashing lights is lowered. Then the operator raises the drawbridge, he said.
One driver who was heading in the opposite direction on Claiborne Avenue said he saw no gate between motorists and the chasm at the time of the accident.
Tony Ortego, who was driving to his Chalmette home from the Hornets game at the New Orleans Arena, said he was driving up the initial approach of the bridge when the car in front of him suddenly braked to a stop, about 10 feet from the end of the roadway. Ortego slammed on his own brakes.
He got out of his car, as did the man in the car in front of him, and both noticed that the gate designed to block traffic had failed to lower, despite the fact that the bridge had been raised. However, the lights on the gate were flashing, Ortego said.
As he looked across the canal, Ortego recalled, he saw headlights approaching. Suddenly, the headlights disappeared, followed by a “loud bang,” Ortego said.
Soon after, the bridge came down and the operator appeared.
“We started yelling, ‘A car just went into the water,’ ” Ortego recalled, describing the operator as lacking a “sense of urgency.”
The operator told the people at the foot of the bridge he also saw the accident. “He said, ‘I know what happened, I called the police,’ ” Ortego said.
Ankner declined to identify the operator.
Ortego also said streetlights on the eastern end of the bridge, where the officer was driving, were not working. They remained dark on Tuesday.
— Award-winning work —
Felix became a New Orleans police officer in 1991. He made headlines just a year into his tenure when he nabbed a 15-year-old boy after a high-speed pursuit and car crash. Felix walked away with minor injuries and in the following years, won life-saving and merit awards.
Felix escaped a shootout with a burglary suspect in 1995 with moderate injuries. A bulletproof vest spared him.
As a narcotics officer, Felix often put himself at risk, undertaking countless undercover drug buys, said Maj. Michael Glasser, his former supervisor.
“I’ve never met a more dedicated individual,” Glasser said. “He is irreplaceable.”
Felix had worked a shift earlier Monday, according to Riley. His colleagues couldn’t say where he was heading at the time of the accident, Riley said.
At a news conference Tuesday outside Police Department headquarters, Riley said several vehicles stopped just feet short of plummeting off the open drawbridge, after watching Felix’s car fall. He noted that the situation could have been much worse — and claimed more victims — if motorists hadn’t seen Felix’s descent.
Riley paused when asked about the effect of the deaths of three separate officers within the past six months. Officer Nicola Cotton, 24, was shot to death with her own gun in late January after a confrontation with a man in a parking lot. Sgt. Thelonious Dukes died in November after being shot in his home by a robber in October.
“When I became superintendent, the one thing I prayed is that I would never have to bury a police officer,” he said.
Felix is survived by his wife and five children, who range in age from 4 to 19.
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NOPD prepares for possible problems durinig Summit http://www.privateofficer.com
It’s VIP duty as President Bush, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper get together to talk trade. But for the New Orleans Police Department, it’s more of the same in a a string of high-profile, crowd-generating events early in 2008.
Police Superintendent Warren Riley said he expects “some protesters, but not a mass.”
“We handle these situations better than anyone in the country,” Riley said.
A number of law enforcement agencies including local, county, state and feferal will be on hand during this event. Preplanning has been done and a security net is in place an officer said. For the summit, they’ll get help from state police, National Guard and the Coast Guard, though Riley wouldn’t say how many additional security forces will be deployed.
New Orleans police are among the world’s most skilled at crowd control. Their methods in handling the up to 1 million people who turn out each year at Mardi Gras have been studied by law enforcement agencies around the world.
Still, there are local tensions that officers will be on watch for _ among them simmering unhappiness about the City Council’s decision last December to approve demolition of many large public housing complexes. A small group of protesters clashed with police as the council was debating on the issue. Police deployed chemical spray and Tasers and some arrests were made.
The North American summit in Quebec last August drew several hundred protesters vocal on the war in Iraq and what they claimed was a gradual merging of the three countries. There also were marches in New Orleans in 2003, when the city hosted negotiations for the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
The summit’s scheduled events take place in the Central Business District, not far from the French Quarter but distant from neighborhoods hard hit by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. It was unclear Friday whether the visiting leaders would meet with hurricane victims still rebuilding their homes and lives.
For Calderon, a visit to recovering neighborhoods would present an opportunity to meet some of New Orleans’ newcomers _ Hispanic craftsmen attracted to the region by the promise of jobs in the massive effort to rebuild homes and businesses.
After a string of events in early 2007 _ the BCS championship and Sugar Bowl college football games, Mardi Gras and the NBA All-Star Game among them _ the summit will turn the international spotlight on the city.
City leaders and tourism interests want to continue sending a message that New Orleans is open for business, said Mary Beth Romig, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Bush announced the summit would be held in New Orleans during his State of the Union speech in January. The president was criticized in 2007 for not including the city, or its struggles, in the speech. Despite billions of dollars of federal investment in rebuilding levees, homes and public infrastructure, the initial response to the flooding that swamped the city left a bad taste for many residents. They think the federal government has failed to do enough to bring the city back.
Not everyone believes New Orleans is the proper venue for the summit.
One target of protesters is expected to be the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. They say the pact, which aims to share information between the three governments and smooth out regulatory differences, is a threat to national sovereignty and an attempt to create a military partnership to enforce the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Jessica Walker Beaumont, an organizer of a People’s Summit on North American issues, also wants to focus on concerns such as increased privatization of hospitals and schools _ “a lot of what NAFTA is about,” she said.
Class distinctions, too, will be in the spotlight.
By coming to impoverished New Orleans, Bush is “having the arrogance to say, This is what prosperity looks like,” said Kathleen Chandler, of Buffalo, N.Y., an organizer for the U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization. The group plans a demonstration Sunday.
Mayor Ray Nagin, in January said he will meet with the president during the summit.
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Security officer shot, saved by his vest http://www.privateofficer.com
Three people were shot in two overnight shootings, and a fourth person — a security guard on duty at a club in Treme — escaped injury thanks to his bulletproof vest, police said.
Around midnight police found two men suffering from gunshot wounds in the 7000 block of Boston Drive in eastern New Orleans, said Officer Shereese Harper.
The unidentified men were transported to a local hospital but their conditions were unknown, Harper said. Police had no suspects or motive for the shootings, she said.
Less than an hour later, an unidentified New Orleans man was shot in the leg on Toulouse Street, Harper said.
Harper provided no details on the shooting, and couldn’t give the exact location or the condition of the victim. Police had no suspects or motive in the case, she said.
About 4:40 a.m., an unidentified security guard for Club Fabulous in the 800 block of North Claiborne Avenue was shot, but was saved by his bulletproof vest, Officer Jonette Williams said.
Williams said the shooting occurred outside the club, and police believe that the guard was not the “intended target.”
Nobody was injured in the shooting and police had no suspects or motive, she said.
Meanwhile, police are requesting the public’s assistance in locating 19-year-old Marion Taylor of New Orleans in connection with the shooting death of a man Monday afternoon in the Lower Garden District.
Taylor is wanted for the murder of 27-year-old Jerome Sparkman, whose body was found in a white Chevrolet Impala near the intersection of Laurel and Josephine streets. Police said Sparkman’s car had crashed into a truck parked on Josephine Street, apparently as a result of the shooting.
A day after the shooting, 16-year-old Justin Collins turned himself in and was booked with second-degree murder.
When located, Taylor also will be booked with second-degree murder, police said.
A reward is available for information leading to an indictment. Call Crimestoppers at 822-1111, toll-free at (877) 903-7867.