NEW ORLEANS - The owner of Best of the Best Automotive and Sales, Bill Cager, and a convicted felon, Kenneth Halley, played a critical role in the alleged cover-up of the hit and run that killed New Orleans Police Officer Rodney Thomas, according to court records.
Prosecutors say Cager met Halley, and an unidentified third man, at the body shop at 1:42 a.m. Sunday, about an hour after the fatal crash.
The body shop is located a block from NOPD headquarters.
According to court documents, Cager used towels to wipe blood off the white 2013 Porsche Panamera believed to have hit Thomas. NOPD technicians found blood stained rags in garbage cans in and around the business the next day, as well as hair on the car’s windshield.
The vehicle had extensive damage to the front end and passenger’s side, and the windshield had a massive indentation where glass had shattered.
According to court documents, Halley picked up a friend and drove the Porsche to the body shop within an hour of the crash.
Surveillance cameras inside and outside the business showed the Porsche arriving at the business, and the subsequent attempts to clean the car, said prosecutors.
Both Halley and Cager are behind bars, charged with obstruction of justice and accessory after the fact to manslaughter.
Cager’s bond has been set at $100,000. Halley’s bond has not yet been set.
Justin McKey, 25, is charged with manslaughter and hit and run causing death. Orleans Parish Sheriff’s records show McKey posted $50,000 bond at 7:39 p.m. Tuesday, but was still in custody as of 10:00 p.m.
McKey turned himself in at 3:30 p.m. Monday, told police where to find the Porsche, and admitted he was behind the wheel when he hit Thomas on the Interstate 10 high rise around 12:45 a.m. Sunday, said court records.
Before the hit and run, Thomas was involved in a minor traffic accident on the way home from his night shift in the second district, and began directing traffic in his uniform and reflective vest.
While Thomas was directing traffic, witnesses said the Porsche side-swiped Thomas’ truck before striking Thomas, carrying him on the hood of the vehicle before he fell to the ground. The Porsche then sped off.
McKey told investigators he was driving the “car in and out and it was dark and he didn’t see him.”
McKey's neighbors said he and his mother have lived in the neighborhood for years, and they have never before seen a white Porsche on their street, raising questions about who owns the car.
Court documents confirm, Halley was cited for driving the Porsche erratically near the Mercedes-Benz Superdome around 9 pm Saturday, hours before the fatal hit and run.
Police have not yet said who owns the Porsche.
Those who knew Thomas said the arrests are one step closer to justice.
“Their actions created such a deep, dark hole for us,” said Cecile Tebo, retired commander of the NOPD’s crisis unit. “I have to say, this is such a great time to be praising our police department. I think they did an outstanding job.”
But there are concerns about Halley's lengthy criminal record, which includes multiple arrests, including charges for second degree murder and heroin distribution.
He was arrested multiple times in 2008 alone, resulting in convictions for distribution of heroin and cocaine and attempted possession of a firearm by a felon.
He was released on good behavior in 2011, serving only two years of a five-year sentence that would have been up in 2014.
Halley’s latest arrest has resulted in a parole violation.
“Our police department is doing an amazing job picking these folks up. They're putting their lives on the line to clean up the street only to have these folks released back the same that they were before,” said Tebo.
McKey has a January arrest in which he pled no contest to criminal trespassing (domestic violence) and was sentenced to 30 days, a $350 fine including court costs, and one year inactive probation.
Cager was arrested in 2002 for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, illegal possession of a stolen auto over $500, and altering or removing an auto VIN number, all of which were refused. Cager also had a 2002 municipal court charge for disturbing the peace.
Thomas' funeral services have been set for Friday morning at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.
Visitation will begin at 8:30 a.m., with the service to follow at 10 a.m.
A memorial fund has been set up for Thomas' wife and children. You can donate at any Gulf Coast Bank.