NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Several agencies are investigating a shootout between an armed robbery suspect, two New Orleans Police officer and a Louisiana State Police trooper Sunday night (Feb. 17) that left the suspect dead and five innocent bystanders injured.
Civilians being injured is never the outcome anyone wants, LSU Health criminologist Peter Scharf said, and in cases where bystanders are shot outside investigations are standard.
“It’s an obvious case for training," Scharf said. “Every incident of this kind, you need an after-action report.”
NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said Sunday that officers did not fire any shots until they were first fired upon. However, outside agencies have not yet confirmed this fact.
Tonya McClary with the Independent Police Monitor’s office said the department has been conducting their own investigation into what happened, with officials sitting in on interviews at the hospital until 4 a.m. Monday.
“There may have been some justification, but that’s preliminary,” McClary said. “There were five shot, we monitored the interview with one of those, one was going into surgery the other out, so they couldn’t be interviewed."
They will also be reviewing RTA bus video and police body cam video as they try and determine if appropriate force was used, McClary said.
Aside from police body cam video, investigators will also have footage from a city crime camera -- one that’s perched right above the shooting scene.
“It’s too early to tell, because it was such a large crime scene it’s hard to say if something should or should not have happened,” McClary said.
Kurt Weigle runs the Downtown Development District and said the violence in the area Sunday night is disturbing, but said the area is usually relatively safe, noting the major construction projects underway.
“This sticks out in a distressing way, because all the effort we put into it,” Weigle said. “We just announced $550 million in construction starts in 2018, that would not have happened if people didn’t feel safe."
Scharf said there are safeguards the city can put in place to prevent this happening again in the future.
“To put a constant patrol in that area, to monitor the transportation routes, is one way this is avoided,” Scharf said.
In the meantime, RTA riders like Enaj Washington who waited for the bus at the Elk Street stop Monday said they are worried.
“Bullets don’t have names, you are in a bad area at the wrong time...it’s a bad spot,” Washington said. “It’s better to catch a bus in the daytime to be safe [and]watch your surroundings."
The independent police monitor said this is one of the biggest investigations they’ve been involved in recently, and expect it to likely take several months to complete. Ferguson said Sunday that both officers involved in the shooting would be put on “desk duty” until all investigations were completed, which he called “standard procedure.”
State police spokeswoman Melissa Matey said the trooper involved in the shootout remained on “regular duty” as of Monday.