Plea deal forged in controversial NOPD officer shooting

Joshua Colclouh
Joshua Colclouh

A deal was in place late Thursday for New Orleans police Officer Joshua Colclough to plead guilty Friday to manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man that sparked protests and stoked racial tensions across the city last year.

In exchange, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro will agree to a sentence of no more than five years in prison for the officer.

Colclough shot Wendell Allen, 20, in his Gentilly home as police executed a search warrant in connection with a marijuana bust. Police never ruled on whether they thought the shooting was justified.

Colclough resigned from the police department Thursday, said police department spokeswoman Remi Braden.

Criminal District Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson would need to approve the terms of Colclough’s deal, which were confirmed by multiple sources familiar with the negotiations. That could happen at a hearing scheduled for Friday morning.

If she does, she would then decide on a sentence anywhere from zero to five years.

If it holds, Colclough’s expected plea would bring a sudden end to a case that, coming on the heels of another fatal shooting by an officer during a Mid-City traffic stop, spurred rallies and cries of discriminatory policing.

Colclough is white. Allen, a former basketball star at Frederick Douglass High School, was black.

The man killed in the second shooting, Justin Sipp, also was black. One of the officers involved in that incident, Jason Giroir, further inflamed racial tensions when he wrote, “Act like a Thug Die like one!” beneath a story about the shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Giroir resigned almost immediately.

Whether Colclough’s deal will be cemented Friday remains to be seen. A similar deal fell apart a year ago, after Colclough had agreed to plead guilty to negligent homicide and accept the maximum five-year sentence, but then skipped out.

A state grand jury handed up an indictment with a manslaughter count, which ordinarily carries a maximum sentence of 40 years. Colclough quickly surrendered and posted the $300,000 bond.

At the time, Allen’s family members said they were disappointed that Colclough had backed out of the negligent homicide plea, which could have seen him leave prison in about two years.

With manslaughter, a crime of violence, he would need to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence.

Colclough’s attorney, Claude Kelly, took a different tack in May, pressing the court to relocate the trial outside of the city amid what he called a “press avalanche” colored by media bias.

Kelly did not return a call for comment Thursday. Cannizzaro spokesman Christopher Bowman declined to discuss the case or the pending plea deal.

Colclough, now 29, was a four-year NOPD veteran when he and other officers executed a search warrant for a marijuana raid on March 7, 2012, at the home of Allen’s mother on Prentiss Street.

Allen had no shirt on and was wearing jeans and sneakers when the officer fired a single bullet that hit his chest. He fell dead on the stairwell.

Two other adults and five children, ranging from one to 14, also were in the house.

Police later reported finding a little more than a quarter-pound of marijuana in a bedroom closet and arrested Allen’s brother and another man.

Allen’s family members could not be reached late Thursday. In March, his relatives sued the city and Colclough in federal court. That lawsuit is on hold pending the resolution of the criminal case.