NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The NOPD has put six officers, who were a part of Wednesday’s fatal crash and fire, on desk duty, but the attorney representing them said they acted bravely that night.
Until the internal investigation is complete, the NOPD announced the officers will not be out on patrol.
Their lawyer said while his clients are all newer officers on the force, their actions the night of the crash and fire prove they’re valuable to the team.
Witnesses watched as a deadly night unfolded when a suspected stolen car crashed into the Unity 1 Beauty Salon shop. Just a few blocks away, six NOPD officers who may have tried to stop the car minutes earlier were the first ones on scene.
“They saw the crash from probably five or six blocks away, and they couldn’t really tell what had happened so they zipped over there,” said attorney Donovan Livaccari.
However, the six officers’ actions are now under investigation.
NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said the officers spotted a suspected stolen vehicle and started to pull the car over around S. Derbigny and Toledano streets. He said some time after that, when it became apparent the car was going to flee, they disengaged.
“Upon the officers initiating this traffic stop by activating their lights...the vehicle started to stop and then accelerated...We believe our officers at that time disengaged and deactivated their lights," said Ferguson.
However, video surveillance shows three patrol vehicles following a speeding car on Toledano with their lights on. Livaccari said the officers actually came to a stop or near-stop a short distance beyond what the video shows.
“Shortly after they stopped there a second or two is when they saw a big puff…It was described to me like it looked like someone ran into a big bag of flour. It wasn’t smoke, it was debris,” said Livaccari.
At that point, Livaccari said the officers sped to the scene and were the first ones to help pull people from the building that would soon erupt in flames. Watching the officers’ body camera video, Livaccari describes it as harrowing.
“They went into the burning building to get people out. They had to find ladders and get people out of windows, so they did an excellent job saving lives of people inside that building,” said Livaccari.
They’re now on administrative duty only until the internal investigation is complete.
“We’re not trying to defend anything at this point. We want to get all the facts out there so the department has the benefit of looking at a factual overall picture. That way, the department can take the right steps that they need to take,” said Livaccari.
And as the officers have yet to speak with their superiors about what happened, he said they’re eager to give their accounts of that fatal night.
“Judging by their actions on the scene of that fire afterwards, I’m glad we have these kids,” said Livaccari.
He said the officers are expected to speak with their supervisors to tell them their side of the story this coming Wednesday, March 27.