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NOPD completes probe of Allen shooting

30th April 2012   ·   0 Comments

Just days after the family of Wendell Allen said it no longer believed the 20-year-old was shot in the back by a New Orleans cop and said it hoped the NOPD would complete its probe of the fatal shooting by April 27, the police department announced that it has in fact wrapped up its seven-week probe of the March 7 incident. The department turned over its findings to Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizarro Thursday.

Wendell Allen, 20, was fatally shot in his Gentilly home while unarmed on March 7 by Officer Josh Colclough. Colclough has been assigned to desk duty since the incident. The fatal NOPD shooting took place just six days after another 20-year-old, Justin Sipp, was killed by police after being stopped at 5:30 a.m. on his way to work. His brother, Earl Sipp, was shot in the leg by police but did not die.

“What I can do — and what investigators have done — is their best in piecing together the facts of what happened that night in the most transparent way we have seen in our history, and preparing a report that is accurate and truthful for the D.A.,” NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas said in a statement Thursday. “I can tell you with great confidence that, as a police department, this is what we have done.”

The police chief did not provide details about the findings of the investigation.

After meeting Monday with Or­leans Parish Coroner Frank Min­yard and viewing photos of their loved one, the family of Wendell Allen said it no longer believes NOPD Officer Josh Col­clough fatally shot the 20-year-old in the back on March 7.

Attorney Lionel Lon Burns told reporters that the meeting and presentation of the photos was planned to assure the family that there was no cover-up of the facts as police continued to probe the fatal Gentilly shooting.

“Today, the Allen family remains confident that the NOPD investigation into the fatal shooting of Wendell Allen is free of scandal, cover-up or any type of machinations by those involved,” Burns said, “to include, the Coroner’s Office, New Orleans Police De­part­ment, the Independent Police Mon­i­tor and NOPD Internal Affairs Division, all of whom have worked and met with the family during these last couple of weeks, in the spirit of conducting a fair, transparent and thorough investigation while working overtime to gain the Allen’s family trust, within reason and within the law.”

Monday’s announcement came less than a week after the family had alleged that steps were taken to hide the fact that NOPD Officer Joshua Colclough shot Allen in the back, citing a funeral home report that pointed to an apparent wound in Allen’s back.

Burns said Minyard showed the family two crime scene photographs—one that revealed an apparent entrance wound in Wen­dell Allen’s upper chest area, and the other showing what appeared to be a large bump on his upper left back area. The coroner told the family that the bump shown in the photograph was the bullet lodged under the 20-year-old’s skin.

Minyard had said several days earlier that a forensic pathologist made an incision in Allen’s back in order to remove the bullet lodged under his skin.

“In this new era of transparency in the City of New Orleans, the Allen family believes future confusion about where a loved one was shot, in an NOPD-related shooting, could be avoided if photographs of the deceased loved one, though somewhat gruesome to some, were readily made available,” Burns said Monday.

“I want him [Officer Colclough] to go to jail for my son. I don’t have my son. From this day forward, if he gets charged with it, I’m still going to grieve,” Natasha Allen, Wendell Allen’s mother, said Wednesday.

Felix Loicano, a former commander of NOPD’s Public Inte­grity Bureau, told WWL-TV that sending the findings of the Wendell Allen investigation to the D.A.’s Office is standard protocol.

“I think it is definitely normal,” Loicano said. “I see nothing inappropriate and would encourage this type of police action in most situations, involving police officers and that is, having a third party to review the matter and to make a decision on how to proceed criminally if appropriate.”

“I’m hoping that the D.A.’s Office get it, look through it and plead his case, second-degree murder,” Natasha Allen told WWL-TV. “That’s what I’m hoping.”

Although New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has not spoken often about the NOPD shootings of Wendell Allen or Justin Sipp on March 1, the mayor raised the ire of some residents last month after he called the two officers injured in the Sipp incident “heroes.” For some in the community, that added salt to a still-open wound caused by the image of hundreds of supporters calling the “Danziger 7” “heroes” when they turned themselves in to authorities several years ago.

Word is spreading about more remarks the mayor allegedly made last week at a Kellogg Foundation gathering during which he criticized residents for taking to the streets after the murder of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin but doing nothing to address Black-on-Black murders in New Orleans. To make his point in front of an audience and group of reporters that was allegedly hand-picked by the Landrieu administration, the may­or reportedly read off a list of names of Black New Orleans residents killed by other Blacks in New Orleans.

Chief War Horse, a Black Indian who was a guest on the local cable-access show “OurStory,” talked about how offended she was by Mayor Landrieu’s remarks on Wednesday night’s show.

Others also expressed growing dissatisfaction with the mayor and his refusal to even consider firing the police chief while pushing his own agenda forward.

“Mitch needs to understand that the cases surrounding the killing of Justin Sipp and Wendell Allen are like a powder keg,” the Rev. Raymond Brown, president of National Action Now, told The Louisiana Weekly Thursday. “We don’t need the mayor or his cronies telling us how we should feel about victims of Black-on-Black crime. Where is all the mayor’s concern when he is trying to take away Black people’s jobs at City Hall or making it difficult for Black contractors to get a fair deal? Where is all the mayor’s concern when the white business community is exploiting Black workers, especially in the tourism industry, and so-called education leaders are dismantling public education and making getting a good education a ‘survival of the fittest’ contest?

“People are growing weary of the mayor and all his tricks and games,” Brown continued. “We will continue to work to find solutions to end Black-on-Black violence but the greatest solution to that problem would be providing better jobs and education opportunities for the city’s poorest residents. We will also be watching the Sipp and Allen cases very closely and will make sure that the justice system does what it is supposed to do. We’re not asking for justice; we’re demanding justice for Wendell Allen and Justin Sipp.”

Brown shared his thoughts about the controlled media exposure allowed at last week’s Kellogg Foundation conference. “I think the mayor is trying to do everything in his power to stop this story from getting out to the rest of the nation and the world,” he said. “That is precisely why we have to continue to fight for justice and support the Black Press as a legitimate voice for our community.

“The mayor trying to control how much of the plight of Black people in New Orleans gets out is kind of like white South Afrikaners trying to prevent Black South African children from learning to read, white and speak English. If a group of oppressed people can’t communicate and convey their struggle and oppression to the rest of the world, they become more isolated and vulnerable. And if ‘outsiders’ can’t get information about what’s going on, they will see no reason to come to their aid. There is nothing new or innovative about the tactic, it’s just proven to be effective when it’s not recognized and addressed by an oppressed group of people.”

“The mayor still doesn’t get it,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a former congressional candidate and New Orleans businessman, told The Louisiana Weekly Friday. “He really needs to get that ego in check and work on his social skills. It’s obvious from everything that he says and does that he’s more interested in being right than he is in doing the right thing and representing everybody’s interests. He continues to dig a deeper hole for himself every time he opens his mouth and acts like he is the only one that has anything worth saying or hearing regarding the city’s crime and violence problems.

“Since he has refused to listen to the voice of reason and open his mind to what Black leaders and residents are saying about Chief Serpas, even after the superintendent and the department suffer one embarrassment after another, the mayor will ultimately pay the price for his refusal to address the problem of insufficient leadership at the NOPD, as he should.”

Attorney Lionel Lon Burns said Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard encouraged the Allen family to “continue its pursuit” of answers about why an unarmed Wendell Allen was fatally shot by an NOPD officer.

This article was originally published in the April 30, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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