Ex-cop apologizes to Wendell Allen’s family
26th August 2013 · 0 Comments
A day after he apologized to the family of Wendell Allen, former NOPD Officer Joshua Colclough entered a guilty plea and began serving a four-year sentence for manslaughter for the fatal shooting of the 20-year-old in March 2012.
Officer Colclough was one of several officers involved in a March 7, 2012, drug raid on the Gentilly home when Allen appeared at the top of the home’s staircase. Shirtless and unarmed, Allen was killed with a single fatal shot.
His apology to the family of Wendell Allen came the same day Joshua Colclough, a four-year NOPD officer, resigned from the New Orleans Police Department.
Because he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on August 16, Colclough won’t be eligible for parole until he has served 40 of the 48 months he is slated to serve.
About a year ago, Colclough turned down a negligent homicide deal that would have made him eligible for parole after spending 20 months in jail.
Natasha Allen, the victim’s mother, said in court on Aug. 16 that Officer Colclough took away the oldest of her 11 children and the love of her life.
“He was my everything,” she said. “He was my superstar.
“He would always, always, say ‘Mom, you don’t have to worry, ‘cause I’m going to be something in life.’ I could sleep at night in peace because I knew I didn’t have to worry about him getting in trouble. Now I don’t sleep at night — I don’t get no rest.”
“All of this happened in an instant,” Colclough’s attorney Claude Kelly told the court Aug. 16. “It was a grievous mistake that he made, but it was a split second. In that split second, he made a decision, a dreadful decision, that a lot people will live with for the rest of their lives.”
The fatal NOPD shooting took place within a week of another fatal shooting involving the NOPD. the killing of another 20-year-old, Justin Sipp, who was reportedly on his way to work at a Burger King restaurant near City Park when the shooting occurred. Justin’s older brother, 23-year-old Earl Sipp, was injured during the gunfire exchange along with several NOPD officers. Tempers flared in the community after New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu referred to the wounded cops as “heroes,” bringing to mind the praised heaped on the “Danziger 7” when they turned themselves in for the fatal shooting of two unarmed Black men and the wounding of four others on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after Hurricane Katrina.
The families of Justin Sipp and Wendell Allen have both filed lawsuits against the City of New Orleans and the New Orleans Police Department earlier this year. Several of his younger siblings were in the home when Wendell Allen was killed with a single gunshot to the chest.
Some members of the Black community have pointed to the fatal NOPD shootings of Wendell Allen and Justin Sipp, as well as an assault on two Black teenagers in the French Quarter on Feb. 10 that was captured on video, as evidence that very few changes have taken place within the New Orleans Police Department since the resolution of several high-profile, post-Katrina murder cases involving NOPD officers, including the Danziger Bridge case and the murder of Henry Glover, who was gunned down by a cop at a West Bank stirp mall. Glover’s remains were later found burned in a car abandoned on a West Bank levee, but his skull was removed from the grisly murder scene and was never returned.
“The NOPD is nowhere near where it needs to be in terms of protecting and serving the entire community and carrying out constitutional policing,” the Rev. Raymond Brown, a community activist and president of National Action Now, told The Louisiana Weekly.
“While the family obviously appreciates the apology Officer Colclough made last week, the timing is suspect and incidents where cops actually step up and take responsibility for taking innocent civilian lives are few and far between,” Brown added.
“Colclough’s made-for-TV apology was just that — bad acting and bad directing,” W.C. Johnson, a community activist and host if “OurStory,” told The Louisiana Weekly. “Any apology at this time has to be suspect for sincerity. The mere fact that Colclough took the same plea deal that was offered a year ago says the options he thought he had vanished. At this point, Colclough was pressured to accept anything he could get.
On August 15, Colclough met members of Wendell Allen’s family for the first time and extended an apology for taking the life of the 20-year-old.
“All I want to know is what took you so long?” Natasha Allen told Joshua Colclough as he approached her and other members of the family. She had already prayed and forgiven him for taking her son’s life. “I prayed for you, prayed that God would have mercy on your soul, but what took you so long?” she told the former NOPD officer.
“I am so sorry it took so long, and I am very sorry for what I put your family through,” Colclough said.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro called the meeting between Colclough and Wendell Allen’s family “rare” and said he likely would have discouraged it if he had known about it. However, he said the meeting was productive and that he would like to be involved in similar undertakings in the future between defendants and shooting victims’ families.
Others recognized that much work remains to be done in reforming the city’s troubled police department.
“Wendell Allen’s death was tragic for everyone involved. I hope that today’s events bring the Allen and Colclough families and this entire community some sense of closure and that justice has been served,” Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson said Aug. 16. “We thank the Allen family, the community, the NOPD, the district attorney, and media for their efforts to bring this matter to light. We thank Officer Colclough and his family for accepting responsibility in this matter and enable the Allen family to have a measure of justice. We feel gratified that we were able to play a role in monitoring the NOPD’s investigation.
“However, we have a great deal more work to do,” Hutson continued. “Now that the criminal case is closed, we still have to review the rest of the involved officers, their supervisors, tactics, training and planning. We do this important work, not only to hold responsible parties accountable, but also for prevention. We need to pinpoint the systemic issues that lead to unauthorized force to prevent these sorts of mistakes from being made in the future.
“I have realized today the importance of my office’s role. The people of New Orleans asked us to be here for incidents like this one. I left the courthouse today with renewed commitment to my mandates and clarity that any political obstacles I face mean very little in the face of young lives being lost.”
Although the NOPD consent decree has been approved by a federal judge, a federal monitor has been selected and the terms of the consent decree have been finalized, Johnson says the Black community must continue to remain engaged in the consent-decree implementation process and watch officers as they carry out their duties to ensure that constitutional policing takes hold in the NOPD. “With all of the false starts and incorrect procedures embraced by the NOPD; with all of the inappropriate behaviors and documented complaints about the NOPD, the legitimacy of the U.S. Department of Justice Findings Letter after a full investigation of the NOPD should be enough for the people of New Orleans to become more vigilant about the NOPD,” Johnson told The Louisiana Weekly Friday. “However, this does not seem to be the case. There is still an imbalance in the number of people in New Orleans who want to give the NOPD the benefit of the doubt.“
This article originally published in the August 26, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.