NEW ORLEANS – The officers who gunned down a knife-wielding man appeared to be justified in using lethal force, but the death will be perceived as a black mark on the beleaguered police department, the head of a watchdog group said Tuesday.
Part of the confrontation leading to Monday's shooting was caught on videotape that shows about a dozen officers surrounding the man as he waved his arms and brandished a small knife. The shooting itself was not taped.
"People will continue to have a negative opinion of police in this city," said Rafael Goyeneche, executive director of the Metropolitan Crime Commission of Greater New Orleans. "That goes back to some of the sins the department has been guilty of over the past 10 to 15 years."
The victim was identified by the coroner's office as Anthony Hayes, 38, of New Orleans. His death follows a series of allegations of police misconduct in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, including the videotaped beating of a retired teacher and accusations that police deserted their posts and looted parts of the city.
Goyeneche said he expects the shooting will be ruled appropriate because the officers apparently felt their lives were threatened, but people will question whether they could have done more to prevent the situation from escalating.
"It's important for this administration to not just address the appropriateness of the shooting but to look to other policy or training that would have prevented them from getting to this point," Goyeneche said.
Police Chief Warren Riley was scheduled to discuss the shooting at a news conference Wednesday.
Even before Hurricane Katrina, the department had a checkered history that included corruption investigations and the conviction in the 1990s of an officer who arranged the murder of a woman who filed a brutality complaint against him.
Detective David Adams said the officers who fired on the man had few options. They have been reassigned pending an investigation.
"Tasers would have been nice, but officers on the street don't have them," he said. "SWAT was not called because it happened too quick."
Phin Percy videotaped a portion of the confrontation before the shooting from his father's second-story apartment.