Man who swam canal to escape arrest found days later in N.O. East

Police book Thomas on drug charges, flight, hit-and-run

A suspected drug dealer who escaped from New Orleans police last week by swimming across the Industrial Canal after a chase through the Lower 9th Ward has been arrested.

Lionel Thomas, 29, was found Monday morning in New Orleans East, three days after he eluded officers.

According to court documents, officers were on patrol in the Lower 9th Ward the night of Nov. 29 when they came upon a Ford Explorer idling with its driver’s side door open on North Miro Street near Delery Street.

The officers said they pulled up to the SUV and saw Thomas sitting in the driver’s seat, holding a clear plastic bag with brown powder, later determined to be heroin. Thomas also had a digital scale on his lap, according to court documents. Two other people also were in the vehicle.

One of the officers ordered Thomas to put down the powder and show his hands. Instead, he slammed the door and sped away in an “extremely reckless manner,” police said.

The officers pursued him until Thomas crashed the SUV at Florida and Jourdan avenues. He then fled on foot. Officers followed and yelled for him to stop, but Thomas kept running until he jumped into the Industrial Canal and swam to freedom.

Police said they found about $500 worth of heroin in the SUV and a letter addressed to Thomas. Thomas’ girlfriend showed up at the crash scene a short time later; he had called her to check on the vehicle, according to court documents.

One of the two other people who were in the SUV needed medical attention for unspecified injuries.

Thomas, who has several drug convictions and a history of arrests for fleeing or resisting officers, was found about 10 a.m. Monday in the 7000 block of Bundy Road in New Orleans East, according to court documents.

He was booked with flight from an officer, negligent injuring, possession with the intent to distribute heroin, hit-and-run with no death or serious injury, aggravated flight from an officer with life endangerment, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

He remained in jail Wednesday on a $101,500 bond, according to Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office records.