NEW ORLEANS, LA — An officer has plead guilty to manslaughter following the shooting and killing of an unarmed man in his own home during a deadly NOPD raid last year. This rare instance of police accountability is marred by the fact that no law or policy changes have been made, assuredly setting the stage for more violent confrontations in the name of drug prohibition.
On the evening of March 7, 2012, members of New Orleans PD’s 3rd District narcotics unit broke down the door of the Allen family with a battering ram. They were there to serve a warrant related to marijuana crimes. As police stormed the family home, several officers poured into the lower floor and others took to the staircase. Wendell Allen, 20, heard the swearing and shouting of intruders and left his bedroom and appeared at the top of the stairs. Officer Joshua Colclough, ascending the staircase, saw Allen, raised his gun and put a bullet through his chest.
The disturbing footage captures the audio of the gunshot and what appears to be Allen crying out in his final, horrific moments.
Police found around 4.5 ounces of cannabis in the home allegedly belonging to Allen’s brother David and his acquaintance Brandon Boles. The the forbidden plants were off the street at last.
NOPD opened its investigation leading to the raid after a confidential informant told a sheriff’s deputy a teenager named Troy Deemer was dealing cannabis from within the Allen residence.
A sergeant with the sheriff’s office accompanied NOPD officer Michael Voltolina to observe activity at the house; they allegedly witnessed several exchanges take place between Deemer and buyers in the driveway. These mutual exchanges taking place on private property were assumed to be drug deals and were sufficient cause to raid the home.
Allen’s 14-year-old sister, Jazmine Jones, was watching television with a younger brother when she heard the gunshot. “I don’t understand why this happened,” she said. There was also a 1-year-old child in the home at the time of the incident.
A grand jury indicted Colclough with manslaughter after he failed to appear in court to enter a guilty plea for negligent homicide; he could have been paroled after serving 20 months in jail if convicted of the lesser crime. Pat Flemming, Colclough’s former counsel, said he suspected District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro had in fact pursued a charge of second-degree murder but was unable to secure it.
After nearly a year of what Allen family attorney Lon Burns called “nothing but bravado,” Coclough arranged a meeting with the victim’s relatives to apologize before he pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge.
“You took the child who graduated and went to college in our family” Allen’s grandmother told Coclough. “You took that from us.”‘
Colclough was sentenced to four years in prison for taking Wendell Allen’s life.
His attorney, Claude Kelley, said police superintendent Ronal Sepas “threw [him] under the bus from the beginning.”
“As I’ve said publicly many times, the loss of life is tragic and affects us all” Serpas said. “Our investigators conducted a fair, thorough and transparent investigation into the death of Wendell Allen. Once we had all the facts available to us, we turned them over to the District Attorney’s Office.”
Coclough wept after being handcuffed and led out of the courtroom.
“He was my everything. He was my superstar,” Allen’s mother Natasha said of her son. “He used to come to me and say ‘mom you don’t have to worry, because I’m gonna be somebody.'”
It is unfortunate that justice is so rare that it deserves a special mention when it is reached. One trigger-happy officer is off the streets for a few years, but the deadly problem that caused this situation has not been addressed. Police across the country will continue to batter down doors in the middle of the night over petty, victimless crimes — like owning and selling plants. As long as prohibition laws are rigorously enforced, and violent raid tactics are employed, tragedy after tragedy will continue to occur. These casualties are to be expected when the government wages a Drug War against the citizens.
Here is a compilation of news coverage discussing the shooting. It includes the video of the shooting. Via WVUE Fox 8: