Covington police captain suspended for accidental shotgun blast

Covington police captain handed shotgun to new officer; no one hurt

Capt. Jack West isn’t a rookie, but he made a rookie mistake Wednesday while presenting a shotgun to the Covington Police Department’s newest officer.

The gun, which West apparently believed was unloaded, went off, blasting a hole in the ceiling and presumably causing a bit of a panic.

West is on paid leave, suspended by Police Chief Tim Lentz.

West is one of two captains in the department, and he served as interim chief from April to October while Mayor Mike Cooper conducted a search for a new chief.

The shotgun discharged as West was issuing it to a new recruit, Lentz said. No one was injured, but the blast tore through the ceiling. West was demonstrating how to use the weapon and failed to check it for ammo.

Each recruit is issued a shotgun and a rifle in addition to a handgun, Lentz said.

Lentz immediately sent West home and notified him that he was conducting an investigation.

Reached by phone, West refused to comment.

This is the second investigation in two months into West, a longtime Covington police officer who rose to the department’s second-highest position before being named interim chief after the mayor fired Richard Palmisano in April.

Lentz is also looking into West’s role in the arrest of two football officials at a game in October. West and the arresting officer, Lt. Stephen Short, had a “heated discussion” during the incident, but West did not take any action against Short.

West was serving as interim chief at the time of the referees’ arrest, which made national news and prompted the New Orleans Football Officials Association to threaten a boycott against games with security provided by Covington police.

The referees were booked with intimidating an officer.

Less than a week later, Cooper and Lentz — who was sworn into office four days after the arrests — held a news conference to apologize for the arrests and announce that the district attorney would not prosecute the officials.

On Friday, Lentz said his investigation into that incident is complete and he found the officers had violated policy. But due to civil service rules, Lentz said, he has to meet with West before any discipline can be meted out. That meeting could be held next week.