A man who was shot in the head by a New Orleans police officer moments after she turned off her bodycam last August has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.
The shooting of Armond Bennett, who was 26 at the time, was kept quiet by the department for two days, which the former superintendent wrote off as an “embarrassing oversight.” Despite this “oversight,” the department still released as little detail as possible about what actually transpired causing the man to be placed in intensive care after a bullet ripped across his scalp.
“Clearly, it fell through the cracks,” NOPD Superintendent at the time, Ronal Serpas, said in a press release.
Two days after the incident, after the public began to question the department, a statement was released that simply read:
“On Sunday, August 10, 2014, around 1:19 a.m., a Fourth District NOPD officer was conducting a traffic stop in the 3700 block of Mimosa Drive. During the traffic stop, the officer was injured and the suspect, 26-year-old Armand Bennett was shot.”
The initial report on the incident made no mention of the shooting.
#H-13388-14 108/Officer Needs Assit. Life in Danger Unit 1420
01:29hrs 3700 block of Mimosa Ct. P/O Sgt. Glaudi
Gist: Officer was in area, heard shots fried [sic],,had altercation with subject and sustained minor injury to right hand. The officer was taken to Tulane Hospital by unit 1420.
The lawsuit filed by Bennett claims that he did nothing to provoke Officer Lisa Lewis and that she nearly killed him “without reason.”
The incident began nine days before the shooting, when Bennett was pulled over by none other than Officer Lisa Lewis in the parking lot of his place of employment for a “partially obscured license plate with only one light.”
During the stop, Lewis and her partner noticed a gun holster in his backseat, which he explained to them was because he was a security guard at Davita Dialysis and was required to carry a weapon while on duty. He also explained that he did not have a weapon with him in the vehicle.
Despite the reasonable explanation, Lewis told Bennett to step out of his vehicle and began shouting at him to show his hands as her partner Officer Lucretia Gantner pulled out her weapon and pointed it at him.
“Mr. Bennett was confused and terrified by this sudden escalation in the traffic stop,” the lawsuit explained. “He attempted to explain to Lewis that he did not have anything on him to concern the officers.”
According to the lawsuit, Lewis then grabbed Bennett by his hair, so he ran, terrified of the aggressive behavior of the two officers over a simple traffic stop in a parking lot.
A K9 officer was brought to the scene and discovered a small bag of marijuana in the man’s vehicle. He had no prior criminal history other than some unpaid parking tickets.
On the night of the shooting, 9 days later, Bennett was arriving at his brother’s house and sitting with him in a parked vehicle when a patrol vehicle began to “creep toward them.”
Lewis and another officer then emerged from the cruiser with their guns drawn and ordered Bennett and his brother to put their hands up.
“Suddenly, and without reason, justification or provocation, Lewis pulled the trigger on her weapon and shot at Mr. Bennett,” the lawsuit says. “Mr. Bennett had done nothing to provoke this use of excessive and deadly force.”
Frightened, Bennett tried to flee, and the officer fired another round. He was shot in the scalp, but the bullet did not enter his skull. He was placed in Intensive Care and required a breathing tube as he was so unstable.
A warrant had been issued for possession of marijuana, illegal carrying of a weapon with a controlled dangerous substance and simple criminal damage to property- even though the body camera footage from the initial stop reportedly showed that Bennett did not have a weapon. The District Attorney refused to prosecute him for the charges in December.
Lewis’s attorney claimed she turned off her bodycam because she was about to end her shift and was driving back to the police department when she pulled Bennett over.