NEW ORLEANS -- Marcus McNeil realized his dream on April 2, 2015.
The young father of two shook the hands of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police Superintendent Michael Harrison and let a grin grow across his face as he marched across the stage at Loyola University, one of the newest graduates of the NOPD academy.
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“We’re excited,” Brittiny McNeil, his wife, told New Orleans Magazine after the ceremony. “He has wanted to make a difference in this city for a long time. He’s always wanted to (join the NOPD).”
But Marcus McNeil’s dream ended too soon.
A man opened fire on him and three colleagues as they patrolled New Orleans East early Friday morning. Police arrested 30-year-old Darren Bridges as a suspect in the case, according to Harrison. Court records show Bridges has a long rap sheet dating back to 2004.
It was about 12:15 a.m. when McNeil, 29, and his partners tried to stop the man near Tara Lane and Lake Forest Boulevard, Harrison told reporters gathered outside University Medical Center, where surgeons’ efforts to save McNeil’s life proved fruitless.
Harrison could not immediately say why the officers tried to stop the man, only that as soon as the officers got out of their vehicle, the man opened fire on them.
McNeil fell to the ground in an instant, Harrison said.
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Ronald Thomas, who lives near the shooting scene, said he heard a commotion outside and saw a man fire four shots at officers. At least one of McNeil’s partners -- possibly two -- returned fire, wounding the gunman who ran away.
“I need EMS on a code three to Tara Lane!” one officer shouted into his radio, requesting an ambulance with the highest priority.
“I shot him once, he went down, but I can’t find him!” another officer shouted moments later, referring to the suspect, who would later surrender after an hours long standoff with police at a nearby apartment.
Police have not said what condition Bridges was in when he was brought to UMC about 3 a.m. But Harrison said the man suffered “multiple” gunshot wounds.
McNeil, a 2006 graduate of St. Augustine High School, was assigned to the NOPD’s 7th District, which covers New Orleans East, since 2015.
He graduated from Dillard University in 2010 with a degree in accounting.
But he gave up that more lucrative and comfortable career a short time later to join the NOPD so that he could serve his community, neighbors in New Orleans East said.
His colleagues knew him as “Milk Dud.” He got the nickname when he was a rookie officer and was arresting a man who tried to get a rise out of him.
“(He was) calling me ‘Milk Dud’ because of my shiny bald head that he believed resembled the candy milk duds,” he told the NOPD for their department newsletter. “Everyone in the district found it hilarious, saying it was true and then began calling me ‘Milk Dud.’
“I've since embraced the name often referring to myself as ‘The Dud’ when bragging about a good arrest.”
McNeil patrolled the streets of the Castle Manor subdivision in the East where he grew up.
Residents there said they knew him as "Officer Friendly," because of his outgoing personality and friendly demeanor.