NEW ORLEANS – Four NOPD officers have been fired and two more suspended after a police chase led to a fatal fire in Broadmoor.
The six NOPD officers spotted a vehicle that had been reported stolen traveling south near the intersection of Toledano and South Derbigny Streets around 8:30 p.m. on March 20.
Once the officers attempted to stop the vehicle, the driver reportedly made a u-turn at the intersection of South Derbigny Street and South Claiborne Avenue and sped off.
The six officers disregarded the NOPD’s vehicle pursuit policy, and deactivated their body-worn camera systems, a clear violation of department policy, according to Chief Shaun Ferguson.
Despite initial claims by the officers that they did not pursue the vehicle after the initial contact, Ferguson said evidence including footage from surveillance cameras in the area proved otherwise.
The officers were in pursuit when the stolen vehicle crashed into the Unity-1 Beauty Supply at the intersection, sparking a fire inside the building.
The New Orleans Fire Department was called to the scene to extinguish the 3-alarm fire.
Both the driver and passenger inside of the reported stolen vehicle died in the crash.
A third victim, who was inside the store at the time of the crash, was badly burned and later died from her injuries.
The six officers involved in the fatal crash not only violated the department’s pursuit policy in the Unity-1 case, but they had conducted multiple other unauthorized chases in the three weeks leading up to the Unity-1 fire.
Officers Alex Mikkelsen, Jonathan Broom, Jeffrey Herrington, and Alex Florian were all fired as a result of the investigation.
Officers Colby Stewart was suspended for 44 days, and officer William Henry was suspended for 54 days.
Mayor Cantrell issued the following statement on the situation:
“What happened on March 20 was a tragedy, and — as we have now confirmed through the investigation of our Public Integrity Bureau — an avoidable one,” said Mayor Cantrell. “All actions have consequences. The individuals responsible are being held accountable, and I am confident that Superintendent Ferguson has responded appropriately and with the level of seriousness required.
“Four of our NOPD officers are being terminated, and two more are being disciplined. These individuals violated NOPD policy and procedures, which are in place to prevent these kinds of occurrences. I applaud Chief Ferguson and his leadership team for addressing the matter with transparency, urgency and care. And I thank the hard-working men and women of the NOPD, who are out there every day working to make our City safe.
“Lives were lost in this tragedy, and we cannot lose sight of how our residents were impacted. A son lost his mother. Young children lost a teacher whom they loved, and we have to be there for them. There were parents who had to bury their children, and they need our support.
“We will hold people accountable, and send the message that these actions will not be tolerated. We are committed to taking care of our community through transparency and accountability.”