New Orleans police looking for man who wounded officer

Law enforcement authorities pressed a search Saturday for a “dangerous young man” who shot and seriously wounded a New Orleans police officer during an armed robbery of a Poland Avenue store in Bywater, police said.

Officer John Passaro was taken to a nearby hospital after the shooting. He was still in intensive care as of Saturday evening, a Police Department news release says.

Passaro, a 3-year NOPD veteran, was in the first of several police vehicles to respond to a reported armed robbery about 7 a.m. in the 1100 block of Poland Avenue, the release says.

Police initially were unsure whether a person or a business was being robbed, the release says.

Police later determined that an armed man held three store employees at gunpoint and ordered them to empty two safes in the manager’s office, the release says.

Passaro entered the store and saw no cashiers or other employees, so he walked toward the manager’s office, the release says.

Passaro stood outside the door, which was closed, and announced himself as a police officer, the release says. The assailant then opened the door and began shooting, the release says.

Police believe the gunman fired three shots, two of them hitting Passaro, the release says.

The gunman then fled the scene, the release says.

Seconds later, a former Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputy, who was in the store shopping with his wife, picked up Passaro’s police radio, the release says. The former deputy broadcast “officer down” and gave the store’s location.

Within two minutes, officers already dispatched to the original call arrived at the scene, the release says.

Authorities set up a perimeter around the area, the release says. SWAT team officers, NOPD’s Canine Unit, Louisiana State Police and Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office helicopters searched the area for hours but did not find the fugitive, the release says.

No arrests had been made by Saturday evening, the release says.

“Our officer is at the hospital, and he’s receiving the best medical care in the world,” Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said at a news conference held at the intersection of Poland and St. Claude avenues.

Canine officers and the New Orleans SWAT team closed St. Claude Avenue while they searched for the shooter, Serpas said.

The gunman ran toward New Orleans after the shooting, Serpas said.

The wanted man is described as a light-complexioned black male in his mid-to-late 30s. He is about 5 feet 7 inches tall with a slim build, the release says.

The fugitive was last seen wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, a blue or blue and white bandana covering the bottom part of his face and sunglasses, the release says.

“We believe this is a dangerous young man,” Serpas said.

Anyone with information about the robbery and shooting is asked to call 911 or CrimeStoppers at (504) 822-1111.