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Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS - Armand Bennett, 26, remained hospitalized Wednesday night after a New Orleans police officer shot him in the head early Monday morning.

Bennett was unarmed at the time, said his attorney, Nandi Campbell.

According to Campbell, police stopped her client and his brother while the two were parking near his brother's home in the 3700 block of Mimosa Court, a quiet block of the Tall Timbers subdivision in Algiers.

Police say officers conducted the traffic stop around 1:20 a.m. Monday.

'The police pull up, headlights are in their face,' said Campbell. 'It's my understanding the police get out of the car, guns drawn and order them out of the car.'

According to Campbell, her client was shot in the head almost as soon as he stepped out of the car, then police fired another shot as Bennett ran toward his brother's house a few doors down.

But New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas said there's more to the story.

Officer Lisa Lewis, a six-year veteran of the force, and her partner, Officer Patrick Guidry, recognized the vehicle because Lewis had tried to arrest Bennett the week before, but he put up a fight and escaped, said Serpas.

According to Serpas, Bennett and Lewis fought again during the traffic stop early Monday morning.

'They got into a scuffle. We believe right now that two shots were fired from Officer Lewis' weapon,' said Serpas.

'At no time did my client, scuffle, wrestle with this officer,' Campbell said. 'That did not happen.'

'I can't get into what his attorney thinks, that's fine,' said New Orleans Police Chief Ronal Serpas. 'I know our investigation. We'll do what we do, we'll get all the information and make some recommendations.'

Bennett had outstanding warrants for four charges stemming from the previous stop, including illegal possession of a weapon, possession of marijuana, criminal damage to property, and resisting an officer, said Serpas.

Bennett also had an outstanding warrant for resisting an officer in Gretna.

Police didn't alert the public about the officer-involved shooting until more than 48 hours later, after multiple media outlets got wind of the incident and pushed the police department for details.

The shooting was listed in the daily police log of major crimes as a signal 108 Monday morning, meaning an officer needed assistance because their life was in danger.

There was no mention of an officer-involved shooting, only a minor injury to the officer's right hand. The log says the officer was treated at Tulane Medical Center and released.

'Around noon or so Monday, I authorized a press statement. Clearly, it fell through the cracks, and our [public information] office did not get the information out and I apologize for that,' said Serpas. 'It's a complete snafu on the part of my team. I take responsibility for it, I apologize for it, and don't want it to happen again.'

Bennett's brother refrained from speaking on camera, but said off camera that police held him in the back of a patrol car for hours, but haven't interviewed him yet. Neither he nor his brother have been charged with anything related to the stop.

Investigators are looking into how Lewis and Guidry conducted the traffic stop, and whether guns were drawn as they approached the vehicle, said Serpas.

'It was a felony stop, the officers recognized this man had active warrants for some dangerous crimes and weed, and as a result of that they took a felony stop posture, which could include having a weapon drawn,' said Serpas.

The five charges listed on Bennett's outstanding warrants, however, are misdemeanors, said Campbell.

'I have a theory that when you have two black males in a car at 1:30 in an area where they shouldn't be or don't belong, police might act a little more aggressive towards them,' said Campbell.

The force investigation team, which includes two FBI agents and falls under the NOPD's public integrity bureau, is looking into whether the shooting was justified, said Serpas.

The independent police monitor is also watching this investigation closely, and says, for now, there are more questions than answers.

'We ask the same question in every officer involved shooting,' said Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson. 'Were the tactics appropriate or did the officer put themselves in a position where they had to use force when it necessary?'

Hutson adds that her office is also questioning whether the traffic stop itself was constitutional, whether the number of shots fired was appropriate, and whether pulling a weapon to begin with was warranted.

'We still have to drill down and make sure the use of force is appropriate, as you know the NOPD is in the consent decree in partly because the force they were using was found to be unconstitutional by the Department of Justice,' said Hutson.

Police plan to interview witnesses and the officers involved on Thursday, said Hutson. The officer who fired the shots has been reassigned to another part of department, per NOPD policy, said Serpas.

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