It has been revealed that a New Orleans police officer turned off her body camera moments before shooting a man in the head, following an altercation during a traffic stop. 26-year-old Armand Bennet was shot in the forehead by NOPD officer Lisa Lewis, who had pulled Bennet over in Algiers, which is on the Westbank, south of downtown New Orleans. The shooting, along with the fact that the officer had turned her camera off was not revealed by police until some time later and New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas has accepted responsibility for the delay in releasing the information, describing it as a “snafu.”
The incident occurred Monday October 13. Bennet had warrants out for him as a result of an altercation a week earlier, which involved the same officer. On that occasion, the two had apparently scuffled and Bennet got away. The outstanding warrants led to Lewis approaching Bennet last Monday. Details of what led up to the shooting are still elusive. At the time, the man had been sitting in a car, with his brother, in the area of the Tall Timbers subdivision. The initial report of the incident was brief: “108/Officer Needs Assit [assistance]. Life in Danger.” In addition to a location and the time, the report included “Gist: Officer was in area, heard shots fried, had altercation with subject and sustained minor injury to right hand. The officer was taken to Tulane Hospital by unit 1420.”
Bennet was hospitalized but his condition was not considered life-threatening. His attorney, Nandi Campbell, claims that he did not resist when officers approached him and that he was shot a second time as he attempted to run away. Bennet’s brother also claims that two shots were fired, although there is no indication of who fired the other shot. The attorney for the police officer involved in the shooting said in a statement “I will point out that the arrested subject was wanted in Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish for resisting at the time of the incident.” New Orleans police say that Bennet will be booked on five warrants when he gets out of hospital. The charges against him will include illegal possession of a weapon, criminal damage and resisting an officer.
One of the main questions raised by the incident has been the fact that the police officer had turned off her body camera which would otherwise have recorded the events leading to the shooting. The officer’s attorney said that she had turned the camera off because she had come to the end of her shift and was returning to her district station. Bennet’s attorney questioned the usefulness of the cameras if officers were simply able to switch them off. “There’s supposed to be some sort of checks and balances,” Campbell added, “so if we have an officer who has no problems shooting at a man two times. Why should I be surprised that she took the camera off? I’m not surprised at all.”
The New Orleans Police Department’s Force Investigative Team, along with an Independent Police Monitor, is investigating the incident.
Graham J Noble