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Deputy constable suspended after viral 911 call reporting French Quarter rape

"At no time did an NOPD officer refuse assistance, fail to respond, or fail to take police action on a reported sexual assault," Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said.

NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans deputy constable has been suspended after a 911 call went viral in which a woman said an officer refused to stop a rape in progress in the French Quarter.

The New Orleans Police Department had opened an internal investigation into an unusual 911 call about a rape in plain sight at the corner of Toulouse and Royal streets on July 26. In the call, a witness said she flagged down an officer a block away from the ongoing sexual assault, and that officer failed to respond to the passed out victim.

The incident drew national attention Tuesday after The Lens obtained a recording of the five minute 911 call.

In a news conference addressing outrage because of the 911 call, New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said the woman was not speaking with an NOPD officer, but rather a deputy constable from the Orleans Parish Second District Court.

On Thursday, Constable of Second City Court Edwin Shorty confirmed to WWL-TV that a deputy was suspended indefinitely without pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation. That unnamed deputy is a law enforcement officer with 30 years of experience, Shorty said, and at the time of the alleged rape he was working a security detail for a movie being shot in the French Quarter. 

Shorty did not say where the deputy constable worked previously over his 30-year police career, but added that deputy came forward after seeing news reports and volunteered Wednesday that he was the officer near the scene.

Shorty said the veteran officer’s admission does not mitigate his actions, which the elected constable said would be thoroughly investigated.

“We all have a duty, whether we’re NOPD or a deputy constable, to instill the public’s confidence in law enforcement,” Shorty said.

Ferguson said his department's internal investigation was closed after its Public Integrity Bureau determined the witness spoke with a constable before calling 911.

"I will state, without reservation, at no time did an NOPD officer refuse assistance, fail to respond, or fail to take police action on a reported sexual assault," Ferguson said.

Ferguson said the initial 911 call was received at 11:21 p.m., with the first NOPD officer on scene arriving three minutes later at 11:24 p.m. A patrol unit arrived a minute later.

"We were able to determine that our officers responded swiftly, and they responded appropriately," he said.

Ferguson said video of the scene did show a NOPD vehicle driving nearby the area at the time of the sexual assault, but investigators could not prove if officers were able to see any crime in progress.

"They were not waved down. No one waved or flagged the vehicle down to draw the officers' attention to that particular incident," Ferguson said.

The chief said that the investigation into the sexual assault remains ongoing and active.

In Louisiana, constables are elected to six-year terms. They are the law enforcement arm of City Courts. They employ deputy constables to carry out the primary duties of the office. New Orleans has two City Courts. First City Court Constable is Lambert Boissiere, Jr. and his office handles the entire East Bank of New Orleans. Second City Court Constable is Ed Shorty and his office handles the entire West Bank of New Orleans.

Deputy constables primarily serve evictions notices, carry out evictions and act as process servers for City Courts, which in New Orleans handle small civil claims. They handle some courthouse security duties as well.

Deputy constables must be POST-certified; they are fully trained law enforcement officers. They wear uniforms and carry a badge, gun and police radio which includes NOPD channels. They have full arrest powers.

The Second City Court Constable’s office employs three full-time deputy constables and about 25 reserve deputy constables. The First City Court Constable’s Office has about 15 full-time deputies.

The 911 Call

The call starts calmly with a request for police help but quickly escalates into what sounds like a dire emergency.

"Two police officers just drove by. I know they saw that, and they did not stop. Somebody needs to respond to that. She is being raped," the witness said.

But as the minutes pass, the woman can be heard growing more frantic, and she considers confronting the rapist herself.

"I probably should f***ing walk up there. Like this poor girl. I mean, I am going to get up there faster than this f***ing cop is," the caller said.         

"The police officer hasn't even moved. He's still just parked here," the woman said. "Like what the f*** are you even doing."

After two minutes pass, the woman said "He's still not even coming!"

The dispatcher responds: Ma’am, this is … I can’t speak freely … I understand,”

The caller said she returned to the corner and found the victim without a pulse.

"He's f***ing gone!," the caller said. "This f***ing cop is still a block away and this girl got raped on the street corner!"

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Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Special Victims Section at 504-658-5525 or call Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans at 504-822-1111. 

Anyone with information regarding the police response is asked to contact the Public Integrity Bureau at 504-658-6800.

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