Murdered HANO officer called 'class act' and 'lovable'

Published: May. 26, 2015 at 1:37 AM CDT|Updated: May. 26, 2015 at 1:53 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Friends of a New Orleans Housing Authority officer killed in the line of duty Sunday call his death senseless and tragic.

New Orleans police investigators say someone shot and killed HANO officer James Bennett Jr., 45, early Sunday morning. Bennett's body was found in his cruiser near the intersection of Erato and Freret streets in Central City. He was patrolling a shut down construction site alone.

"You never think it's going to be your friends that happens to," Bum Lee said. "He was a big lovable guy. Everybody called him Godzilla."

Bennett was a regular at Lee's gym in Gretna. The two grew up together, and when Lee heard what happened to his longtime friend, he could not believe it.

"It's hard. I know eventually they have to let his mom know in California. He's got family up there," Lee said.

NOPD has not released the names of any suspects.

"He was a class act," Nick Lauricella said. "Whenever I heard it, it was crazy. The way it happened, you don't want to hear it that way."

"He believed in HANO," Lee said.

According to Lee, Bennett was working on an outreach program that would have allowed him to bring a mobile weight room to the communities where he worked.

Lee now wants to see changes to HANO safety policies. He's upset that his friend was alone when he was shot.

"More than catching the guy. I hope something comes about it. You can catch the guy. There's a million criminals out there. But what are they going to do to protect the officers? What are they going to learn from it? That's my big question," Lee said.

HANO would not comment on why Bennett was patrolling alone.

HANO Director Gregg Fortner issued a statement saying HANO mourns the loss and is increasing patrol coverage in the area.

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