From The Advocate
By Matt Sledge
As Arties Manning gasped for air in the courtyard of a New Orleans East apartment complex, Officer Terrance Hilliard’s head was spinning.
The day had started off like any other for Hilliard’s New Orleans Police Department task force, whose mission was to find the gunman behind a series of frightening armed robberies. It ended with Manning — who had no role in the robberies — dead from three gunshot wounds, at least two of them to the back.
Hilliard, who fired the fatal shots, later said that it didn’t have to “go down like this.”
Although New Orleans police said Manning raised a stolen gun at Hilliard before being shot, his parents filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city last year. On Tuesday, the city and Manning’s family reached a six-figure settlement that will avert a trial in federal court, according to court records and a source familiar with the case.
Documents in the court record provide a look at the surveillance operation, an internal NOPD investigation that concluded the shooting might have been avoidable, and outgoing Police Superintendent Michael Harrison’s response to that investigation.
Harrison’s approach to police-community relations during his four years as the NOPD’s leader won him praise and the attention of officials in Baltimore, who this week hired him as their next chief. But his reaction to this incident left Manning’s family with deep grievances. They dispute the notion that Manning raised a gun at the officer or that the shooting was justified.
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Attorney Glenn McGovern said the family settled to avoid the stress of a trial.
“They wanted to put it behind them, I think. It was going to be painful for them to go through that,” he said.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s press secretary declined to specify the amount of the settlement. “This amicable settlement was in the best interest of all parties, and the city continues to deny any wrongdoing or error in connection with this case,” LaTonya Norton said.
Manning, 26, was shot on the evening of Jan. 24, 2017, in a courtyard at the Carriage House apartment complex at 10151 Curran Blvd.
Police said that a special anti-robbery unit called the TIGER team was trying to locate another man, Harry Palmore, who was arrested the same day and ultimately pleaded guilty to a series of armed robberies.
Hilliard had tracked a stolen car linked to the robberies to the Carriage House apartment complex, where Manning and Palmore both lived. Palmore later said he barely knew Manning, and police ultimately acknowledged that Manning had no role in the stick-ups.
After Hilliard found the car, he and other plainclothes officers conducted surveillance to find the suspected robber. Uniformed officers were supposed to arrest anyone who was discovered.
Manning was shot after police spotted him talking to Palmore in the courtyard, police said. When police moved in to arrest Palmore, Manning also bolted.
In a 99-page report on the shooting, Sgt. David Barnes of the Public Integrity Bureau said there were “several policies implicated which could have (led) to a possible alternative outcome.”
What stood out most to Barnes was that the sequence of events that led to Manning’s death might have begun when plainclothes officer Cedric Davillier moved in to make a collar. Davillier hurriedly switched from working as an undercover surveillance officer into a “take-down” officer by taking off his hoodie to reveal an NOPD uniform polo shirt, Barnes said.
Manning then ran around a corner in the apartment complex straight toward Hilliard and started raising a gun at the officer, who then shot him, Barnes said.
Barnes said Davillier could have waited for fully uniformed officers to arrest Manning and Palmore before switching from surveillance to “take-down” mode.
Barnes said “the fatal error in this incident was the transition of Officer Cedric Davillier from the role of a surveillance officer to a take-down officer.”
As a result, Manning may not have realized the man in front of him with a gun was a police officer.
“In hindsight … the deadly force incident involving Officer Hilliard, though justifiable, may not have occurred if Officer Davillier had remained strictly in a surveillance capacity and allowed the uniformed units to better position themselves prior to confronting Manning,” he said.
Yet the fault wasn’t Davillier’s, Barnes said. He said the NOPD’s “policy regarding surveillance operations does not address the issue of when surveillance officers may conduct a take-down.”
Barnes said the department should rewrite its guidebook to clarify when cops working as surveillance officers can make arrests. However, nearly two years after the shooting of Manning, no such changes have been made.
In a combative deposition with McGovern, the family’s attorney, in November, Harrison defended the special TIGER — Tactical Intelligence Gathering and Enforcement Response — armed robbery unit he created in 2016. He said that in his personal experience as an undercover officer in the 1990s, he sometimes had to switch into “take-down” mode.
Harrison said he wouldn’t second-guess officers trying to make sure that a dangerous criminal did not escape.
“Our officers are extremely brave,” Harrison said. “And while this is an extremely unfortunate, sad incident that no one should have to ever experience, I’ve learned that things happen fast, and we have to adjust, adapt, improvise and overcome.”
Harrison also downplayed the fact that the plainclothes officers were not wearing body-worn cameras, despite the fact that department policy does not make an exception for them.
“There has been conversation between the chiefs and me, and the commanders, about the need for officers who are working in an undercover capacity or in a surveillance capacity blending in,” Harrison said.
He added: “It would be your expectation as a citizen that we actually be smarter than the criminal and not confine ourselves to that.”