NEW ORLEANS – Officer Rodney Thomas, 52, is remembered as a man who was dedicated to serving the community.
Now New Orleans police are turning to the community to bring the driver who fatally hit Thomas and then fled the scene to justice. “To not turn yourself in is such an insulting thing to do to the families and the community, just hold yourself accountable, turn yourself in,” said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas.
Thomas, an eight year NOPD veteran, was heading home from his second district night shift around 1 a.m. in full uniform and a reflective vest when the tragedy began to unfold, said police.
It started when Thomas was involved in a fender bender in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 10 near the high rise. He pulled over and exited his vehicle to check on the other driver, said police, when a white 2011 or 2012 Porsche Panamera struck him and sped off.
Thomas was pronounced dead at the hospital.
“This is a very sad day for all of us here at the New Orleans Police Department,” said Ronal Serpas. “Officer Thomas is exactly what we were looking for to turn this police department around.”
“When I found out that he was gone, I thought, you know what God, today really got the best best person,” said Cecile Tebo, retired commander of the NOPD Crisis Unit and longtime friend of Thomas’. “He was by far the most dedicated, compassionate, precious man I ever met.”
The type of vehicle involved is rare, and investigators are combing state records and working with other states as they search for its owner.
8th District investigators are also working with hotels that may have surveillance video of the vehicle, said Serpas.
“The accident resulted in evidence being left on the scene from this car that will forever link that car to Officer Thomas's death and to the driver of that vehicle,” said Serpas, noting that several parts of the Porsche were left behind.
And while police investigate leads, those who knew Thomas are praying for the wife and two children he leaves behind, and remembering how many lives he touched before losing his own.
“For us, for me, I have a special little angel here now, who as he did here used to really protect me, and I know that I now have that there,” said Tebo.
The white 2011 or 2012 Porsche Panamera will have extensive damage to the right, front side and a missing light kit, said police.
Anyone who has seen this vehicle or who can provide information as to the driver's identity is asked to notify NOPD immediately or call Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111.
There's a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.
A $1,000 reward is also being offered for information that leads to the location and return of the vehicle involved.
The mayor's office issued the following statement:
"Today, we mourn the loss of three brave men who served the City of New Orleans with honor. Police Officer Rodney Thomas and Firefighters Tommy Ashby and Scott Blanchard will be sorely missed by their fellow officers, firefighters and the people they served. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time."