New Orleans Police detectives ignored or mischaracterized evidence in an internal investigation to try to clear an officer in the 2012 shooting of an unarmed man, according to a draft report by the department’s independent monitor obtained by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.
The draft report by the Office of Independent Police Monitor presents a scathing critique of the March 2012 raid in which 20-year-old Wendell Allen was gunned down inside his Gentilly home by then-NOPD officer Joshua Colclough. The report also criticizes the department’s investigation of the shooting.
The 34-page report found the detective assigned to the internal probe consistently misstated witnesses accounts and ignored crucial evidence — including personal body-camera video filmed by one of the officers.
The NOPD investigation by the Homicide division and the Public Integrity Bureau “searched only for and interpreted evidence in ways that confirmed their preconceptions of preexisting beliefs” that Colclough and other officers involved in the raid did not violate department policy, the monitor report says.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro charged Colclough with manslaughter, and Colclough pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison for shooting Allen.
Police Monitor Susan Hutson has scheduled a press conference to announce the official release of her office’s report at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 4) at Southern University-New Orleans.
In an statement issued Tuesday, NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison called the shooting “a tragic situation” for Allen’s family and the police department.
“Following a comprehensive internal investigation, the officer accepted responsibility for his error in judgement and was criminally prosecuted. Three years later, we have implemented significant reforms to improve training, supervision and resources for our officers, including the implementation of body worn cameras,” Harrison said. He said he will continue to work with local and federal officials “to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to prevent these types of incidents from happening again.”
Department spokesman Tyler Gamble provided a letter to Hutson’s office, dated July 30, pointing out inconsistencies in the monitor’s own report and defending the investigation, claiming some legal conclusions in the report are “inaccurate and improper.”
The police monitor’s report calls for an investigation of possible misconduct by the detective that led the criminal investigation of the shooting, as well as officers who gave statements about the shooting that were contradicted by the video.
It also notes that the multiple flaws in the raid at Allen’s home and the subsequent internal investigation have not yet been fully incorporated into training and policy changes by the department, which is laboring to make reforms under terms of a federal consent decree.
The monitor’s report comes as city attorneys are negotiating a settlement of a federal civil rights lawsuit by Allen’s family. Colclough is also seeking a reduction to his sentence at a hearing this week in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.
“Recent protests in other cities demonstrate the destructive impact of a police department’s to rein in the use, especially on unarmed subjects, of police deadly force,” the monitor’s report states.
“While the New Orleans Police Department… must maintain officer safety, if communities in New Orleans cannot trust the NOPD to institute and follow policies that establish community safety as a priority, then the officers are less safe as a result.”
Man shot unarmed during raid
Colclough shot Allen once in the chest as the officer climbed the stairs to the second-story of Allen’s house, during a raid in which police found about five ounces of marijuana.
Hutson’s report points to flaws in the warrant that authorized the search, and notes that video showed officers didn’t announce themselves before battering down the front door of the house or warned Allen before Colclough opened fire.
Colclough resigned before pleading guilty to charges in Allen’s death. The only officer disciplined by the department, Hutson’s report found, was the officer who filmed the raid on a personal body camera. The report notes the use of the camera did not breach NOPD policy at the time, and the department last year issued similar cameras to nearly all officers and made their use mandatory.
Hutson’s report questions whether the information officers had before they entered the house justified a “no-knock” raid in which armed police burst into a home where they knew children were present.
The afternoon of March 7, 2012, narcotics officers in the 3rd District had watched several hand-to-hand drug deals take place in front of Allen’s house in the 2600 block of Prentiss Street, and tailed two suspected dealers into Jefferson Parish and made a traffic stop, the report says. A search warrant application lists the Allens’ house as the address of one of the suspects, though neither suspect gave that address, Hutson’s report says.
Officers also were aware that there were children at the house — Hutson’s report notes that children ranging in age from 1-year-old to 14 were inside, along with Allen, his 19-year-old brother and a 19-year-old friend.
Report cites flaws in NOPD probe
Hutson’s report notes the department’s investigation, led by Homicide Division detective Sgt. Bruce Glaudi, had significant flaws.
Glaudi, the report states, told officers he interviewed as witnesses that his investigation was about an “attempted homicide of a police officer,” not an officer-involved shooting, and Glaudi was hostile during interviews with Allen’s brother, who had witnessed the shooting.
Glaudi also initially ignored that one of the officers in the raid said he had video of it, even after Glaudi was reminded about the officer’s statement immediately by a deputy monitor who was present for the interview. Glaudi only sought out the video after the monitor complained to then-Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas and Public Integrity Bureau Director Arlinda Westbrook.
The body-cam video showed the officers knocked down the door unannounced, the Monitor’s report states, and began shouting at the family members inside once they entered. The video does not show Allen being shot, but no officer can be heard shouting a warning to Allen before the sound of the gunshot, the report states.
In the July response to the report by NOPD, Harrison disputed whether the video showed the officers didn’t knock, and said the officers had probable cause after making the traffic stop in Jefferson Parish and finding two men had left the house with a pound of marijuana.
Harrison’s letter also notes that Public Integrity Bureau investigators now handle investigations of police shootings, not Homicide detectives, and that policies on searches and warrants have been changed since Allen’s death.
The police monitor found the video contradicted statements by NOPD officers Roy Caballero, Nigel Daggs and Eugene Cummings, who said they knocked before battering down the door. Caballero, who was behind Colclough on the stairs, also said that Caballero warned Allen before Colclough fired.
Caballero resigned from the department, but Daggs and Cummings and Glaudi all remain on the the NOPD and are assigned to the 3rd District, Gamble said.
Despite the video evidence, Glaudi included those officers’ statements in his report, and misstated the accounts of an 8-year-old and 14-year-old witness, the police monitor’s review found.
Glaudi’s report also ignored logical inconsistencies in their statements as officers attempted to flesh out an investigation that proved the shooting was justifiable.
Glaudi’s report noted a 5-year-old witness told police she had seen someone hiding a gun at on the second floor house as police entered — a statement officers would use to get a second search warrant for the house later that day. But Glaudi did not question the accuracy of the statement even after police and other witnesses had said all of the children had been on the first floor when the officers burst in and were quickly herded out of the house.
The second search also raised eyebrows for the police monitor’s office. Hutson was in the house when NOPD officers swept the property to look for the gun, and she did not witness them locating the weapon. The gun, her report says, belonged to a civilian who said it had been taken from his truck, though he had never reported the theft. Harrison’s report said the gun had been reported stolen.
Glaudi also fixated on the gun and preliminary tests that showed gunshot residue on Allen’s hands and the hands of his brother and 19-year-old friend who were upstairs when Allen was shot. Final tests did not show any gunshot residue, but Glaudi did not include the information in his report, according to the monitor’s conclusions.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect charge for then-NOPD officer Joshua Colclough. He was indicted for manslaughter.