NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As plainclothes detectives followed but did not approach Reginald Bursey, they called for backup from uniformed officers. Bursey was a suspect in a couple of armed robberies.
Donovan Livaccari. who’s an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police, said the officers were likely trying to arrest Bursey there before he escaped to a busier intersection.
“They knew the gentleman had a propensity for using public transportation, so had they not stopped him when they did, he may very well have gone and gotten on the bus. Then we have another problem,” Livaccari said.
It’s not until Bursey tries to run from them that bullets start flying.
“As soon as that happened, the officers had a responsibility to protect themselves and the rest of the people standing around there,” said Bursey.
Video shows Bursey continued to run around the corner on Elk Place, shooting behind his back haphazardly as officers follow. NOPD Chief Shaun Ferguson said it’s possible his officers may have shot three innocent bystanders: A bullet grazed a man with a red back pack near the corner, another man was hit further down the street, and a third man at the bus stop was shot in the elbow.
"At no point - let me be clear - were our officers firing without being fired at,“ Ferguson said.
As bystanders were injured by gunfire, Livaccari said there’s always the possibility of a lawsuit. However, he points to a prior ruling from the United States Supreme Court, saying it basically means that before using force, an officer is often required to make split-second decisions, and those decisions and actions shouldn’t be reviewed with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.
“They did a good job in attempting to minimize the danger involved,” Livaccari said.
Livaccari said at the end, Bursey appeared to have no intention of going to jail, choosing to fire at officers instead. But he said the minute Bursey brandished his gun, it created almost an active-shooter situation.
“On some level the officer has to make a judgement call to what’s the greater threat. Is this suspect remaining at large a greater threat or problem than attempting to stop him from shooting?” Livaccari said.
There’s still steps left in the investigation, but Livaccari believes the officers did what they could in responding, acting and adapting that night.
“No one wants to see innocent civilians injured, and officers do their best to minimize that risk every day. Unfortunately, not everything is in their control,” Livaccari said.
The office of the independent police monitor issued a statement regarding Thursday’s (Feb. 28) release of video surveillance, saying the agency does not believe the video shows the entirety of the investigation.
It goes on to question, in part, why police intercepted Bursey at a populated location, and why a non-specialized NOPD unit stopped him.