Investigators believe more than one gunman may have been involved in the murder of the New Orleans police officer found dead on Sunday morning. The 45-year-old officer was apparently shot dead in his car while on an off-duty patrol at a public housing construction site.
The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) police officer, identified as James Bennet Jr., had been a member of the Police Department since 2013. Investigators believe that at the time of the shooting Bennet was checking a security detail at a Guste Homes construction site.
“It is truly a sad day for our department,” HANO Police Chief Robert Anderson expressed his sadness. “We’ve never had an on-duty death in the department’s history.”
Bennet’s body was found in his patrol car by other HANO police officers on Sunday morning, at about 7:10 a.m. The car had stopped between Freret and Erato streets, in a relatively isolated part of Central City. HANO police believe their colleague was shot around the same area.
For the time being, New Orleans authorities refuse to make any assumptions on when or why the officer was killed. “We don’t know what happened, and we don’t want to speculate,” NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison explained. Harrison indicated that it is too early to tell whether Bennet was directly targeted by the killers or if his murder had anything to do with his off-time investigation.
The window on Bennet’s car was shattered, probably after the impact with the bullet, but the policemen cannot determine for sure if the suspect was sitting inside or outside the vehicle at the time of the shooting. The police said finding potential witnesses of the incident is very difficult, since the area the officer’s body was found in is not really populated. However, investigators are talking to people living in the surrounding neighborhoods, just to make sure they don’t miss anything.
As far as HANO police is concerned, Bennet was the first officer ever murdered within their ranks, and the incident has left his colleagues both shocked and angered. “NOPD and HANO will work very closely to identify and arrest those responsible for this heinous assault,” the police department said in a press release, adding that Bennet’s death has opened their eyes to the dangers they face each day.
Jessie Smallwood, the former chief of HANO, says the police department’s officers are not normally allowed to work alone. However, neighbors argue HANO police officers can often be seen patrolling by themselves, especially at night.
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