Update: NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson released a statement Tuesday addressing the amount of shootings in which a New Orleans police officer has shot someone so far this year.
"NOPD wishes to recognize the partnerships with our Independent Police Monitor, Federal Monitor Team and the FBI in working closely with members of our Public Integrity Bureau to ensure transparency of officer involved shooting investigations," the statement reads.
"While the spike in shootings thus far in 2019 may seem concerning to some, we want to assure our citizens that the facts surrounding each of these incidents clearly demonstrate our officers were left with no alternative when faced with a split second decision involving armed suspects," it reads.
Ferguson also made the following statement:
“Our training and policies governing the use of deadly force remain among the best in the country. This is in large part due to the excellent work done by our Use of Force Review Board which meticulously dissects each incident with a focus on improving tactics and procedures. However, no matter what we do to improve our strategies, it is unfortunate that the nature of our work sometimes forces a confrontation with those intent on harming others.”
The shooting Monday morning in which two suspects and a New Orleans police officer were wounded along Prytania Street was the fourth officer-involved shooting in 2019, coming after a full year in 2018 without a single such incident.
Monday’s gun battle came after officers responded to an armed robbery call at a 24-hour CVS Pharmacy at about 6 a.m. The officers, wounded in the shoulder, was reported to be in stable condition and the two suspects, ages 18 and 26, were not thought to have suffered life-threatening injuries.
Both of the suspects are in custody, but are not being named by the NOPD because they are part of a larger of investigation, the department stated.
Three of the previous officer-involved shootings were fatal.
The first came on Jan. 4, when Zonell Williams, 33, was killed in front of his home on Orleans Avenue. Officers were responding to a call of an attempted suicide when Williams allegedly opening fire, striking one officer in his bullet-proof vest. Williams was thought to suffer from mental illness.
The second case was on Feb. 17 along Canal Street and Elk Place, in which New Orleans officers and a State Police Trooper killed Reginald Bursey, 32. Bursey opened fire as two officers approached on foot to question him about an earlier robbery. Records show that Bursey had been a member of a violent street gang in Houston and also was wanted in connection with a Texas robbery.
Then on May 17, Donald Davis Jr., 40, was fatally shot by officers outside of an apartment complex leasing office in eastern New Orleans. Police say Davis, who suffered from mental illness, opened fire and dared officers to shoot him.
Each shooting is investigated by the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau and Force Investigation Team, as well as the Independent Police Monitor’s office and federal authorities.
Tonya McClary, the IPM’s chief monitor, was at the crime scene and hospital as the investigation unfolded Monday morning.
McClary said that in addition to writing a report, the IPM looks at any patterns involved in officer-involved shootings to determine if there are underlying reasons or similarities.
“Once everybody can catch their breath – the NOPD is very busy, we're very busy – we're looking forward to working with them to see if we can try to identify some patterns,” McClary said. “Because of course I think everyone's foremost thought is the safety of the citizens of New Orleans. That's our primary thought. I'm assuming once the smoke clears being able to sit with them and see if there's any trends going on.”
The NOPD reported that in Monday’s shootout, the officers’ body cameras were activated. Following departmental policy, footage from those videos should be made available to the public within 10 days.