The New Orleans Police Department’s internal investigative unit and members of the city’s police monitor’s office are scheduled to conduct a videotaped walk-through and re-enactment Tuesday inside the Gentilly home where an officer fatally shot an unarmed 20-year-old man last month. The walk-through is the latest step in the investigation into the death of Wendell Allen, who was killed by a single gunshot during a police raid for marijuana.
Members of the police monitor’s office, as well as the Allen family’s attorney, both characterized the event as a re-enactment of the shooting.
Police spokeswoman Remi Braden declined to comment on the matter, citing the ongoing investigation. One police source classifying it as a “videotaped walk-through” rather than a re-enactment.
Whatever it is, the videotaping might be a first-of-its-kind investigative step for the NOPD, whose probes into officer-involved shootings have come under scrutiny in recent years amid a raft of unjust police killings and cover-ups.
The NOPD is handling the investigation into Allen’s death, and the city’s police monitor and the FBI are offering assistance and some oversight.
Police Monitor Susan Hutson’s office on March 22 recommended that the NOPD stage a re-enactment, according to deputy monitor Simone Levine. That was 15 days after the shooting. Now, nearly four weeks after the shooting, the Police Department is doing just that.
“It’s a good idea to put people back in the situation they were in, in order to understand how this happened,” Levine said. She said her office did not have details on whether the officers involved in the raid and shooting would be present.
Ursula Price, spokeswoman for the police monitor’s office, said members of the office “couldn’t really draw a picture, visualize what the officers saw, or at least said they saw” — hence the suggestion of a re-enactment.
“We think this is a good practice, considering it is such a complicated scene,” Price said.
The monitor’s office met with the Allen family’s attorney, Lon Burns, who helped broker access to the house in the 2600 block of Prentiss Avenue in Gentilly.
Burns said Monday that he and the family believe the site visit will help shed light on what they view as an unjustified shooting.
“They are going to have to explain what they saw,” Burns said of the officers. “The truth is catching up with the lie.”
What exactly occurred that night is at the heart of the police probe. NOPD officials have yet to offer a clear narrative to explain what, if anything, prompted officer Joshua Colclough to fire on Allen.
City and police officials, while offering condolences to Allen’s family, have repeatedly vowed to conduct a full, transparent investigation.
When the shooting occurred, the NOPD’s 3rd District narcotics unit was conducting a raid on the home, armed with information that marijuana dealing was taking place inside the house. Earlier on March 7, police followed the target of their investigation, Troy Deemer, from the home and arrested him for allegedly possessing a pound of marijuana.
They continued with their investigation, successfully sought a search warrant from a judge, and broke down the door just before dusk. Allen was one of eight people, five of them children, inside. The plain-clothed officers fanned out through the two-story house.
At some point, Colclough fired a single shot that struck Allen in the chest. Allen fell on a stairwell landing. He was unarmed and shirtless, wearing jeans and sneakers, according to the NOPD and Burns. He died quickly.
Officers reported later finding 138 grams — about 4 1/2 ounces — of marijuana inside a bedroom closet.
Police arrested Brandon Boles and Davin Allen, both 19, and booked them with possession with the intent to distribute marijuana. Police have not linked Allen directly to the marijuana.
He was convicted last year of possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute and was given a five-year suspended sentence and released.
Officers also recovered a gun allegedly “hidden” inside the home, though police have not linked it to the shooting, or indicated that it was illegal.
Colclough, a 4 1/2-year NOPD veteran, was reassigned to desk duty in the wake of the shooting.
Burns, the attorney, said Monday that he and the Allen family have faith that Colclough will be charged with a crime.
“With all these supposed reforms in place and these safeguards, we trust that the system will work,” Burns said. He said investigators have told him the case will be handed over to District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office within a few weeks.