Crime

Fourth Judicial District Attorney Steve Tew says he will not prosecute the Monroe police officers under whose custody David Harris died in April, sparking a probe by a special investigative unit.

Tew evaluated the investigative file put together by the Northeast Louisiana Sheriff’s Investigative Unit, which concluded its probe of the in-custody death of David Harris in late June. The special unit investigated whether Monroe police officers were responsible for Harris’ death, while he was in their custody.

On April 3, an officer with the Monroe Police Department encountered Harris, 51, near the intersection of Standifer Avenue and Alabama Street.  Harris was described as behaving erratically. Harris reportedly became combative and fought with officers, leading to his arrest and booking at Ouachita Correctional Center.

At the prison, Harris became unresponsive, and deputies and medical staff administered medical aid but Harris died.

“After careful review of the written reports, recorded statements of witnesses, numerous officer body-camera videos and the autopsy report, the District Attorney has determined there was no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the police,” stated Tew’s office.

According to Tew, Harris was under the influence of phencyclidine and methamphetamine when police made contact with him.

“They took him to the hospital to try to get him medical assistance,” stated Tew’s office. “Upon arriving at the hospital, Mr. Harris became extremely combative and fought the officers excessively.”

The autopsy report finding was “cardiopulmonary arrest following physical restraint, exertion and struggle with drive stun conductive electrical device application, in the setting of phencyclidine and methamphetamine intoxication, complicated by hypertensive arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease,” according to Tew’s office.

“The officers’ actions relating to Mr. Harris on April 3, 2021, were appropriate,” stated Tew’s office. “There is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the officers and no further action in this matter will be taken.”

Tew said his office met with Harris’ family to make known the results of the investigation and expressed condolences concerning his death.

As reported earlier this year, Harris’ sister, Carmelitha Long, filed a petition for investigation with the Monroe Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board last month, asking the board to investigate how Monroe Police Chief Victor Zordan handled the case involving the death of her brother. Long claimed that Zordan lied about the investigation.

Long argued that Zordan was untruthful because of apparently conflicting accounts of which law enforcement agency was investigating Harris’ death. Long disputed statements Zordan made about the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office being involved in the investigation of Harris’ death at the prison. The Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office, which is part of the NLSIU special unit, was part of the investigation into Harris’ death.

An affidavit by Ouachita Parish sheriff’s Chief Deputy Marc Mashaw defended Zordan and claimed the police chief had not lied but had referred to two separate investigations, one by OPSO concerning what happened at the prison and one by the NLSIU about what happened while Harris was in police custody.

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