Video: La. suspect shoots at police through door, wounds officer

The video of the ambush shows officers being fired on from behind a bathroom door, then grappling with the suspect

Matt Sledge

NEW ORLEANS — Video released Friday shows the danger that New Orleans cops faced last month during a shootout with a man wanted on domestic violence warrants that left one officer injured and the unharmed suspect in custody, Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said.

Yet as Ferguson acknowledged, the footage also raises several questions about the tactics of the officers who entered a New Orleans East apartment on a hunt for alleged domestic batterer Horace Toppins IV.

The two lead officers who entered the apartment weren't wearing bulletproof vests, shirts identifying themselves as police officers or body-worn cameras. Internal investigators are also still probing why and how officers entered the apartment in the first place, police said.

The video was released Friday under a special policy the NOPD implemented under its reform agreement with the federal government. The NOPD says it releases videos of "critical incidents" like shootings involving officers to build trust with the public.

The shooting, which happened in the 6700 block of Bundy Road about 8:45 a.m. April 21, was one of two involving NOPD officers last month.

Four officers took part in the arrest of Toppins, police said Friday.

Two officers fired their weapons a total of seven times between them: Kevin Doucette, the officer who was shot in his right arm; and Sasha Winchester, who wasn't injured.

Doucette and Winchester weren't wearing body armor or chest-mounted cameras. The video released on Friday came from the two other officers who backed them up, Kevin Moseley and Chueyeileng "Chuey" Moua.

The rear officers' videos captured the group entering the apartment. Residents watch on silently as the officers make their way to the front of a closed bathroom door in a narrow hallway. Toppins was inside, police said.

"New Orleans police officer," Doucette begins to say, before a hail of gunfire cuts him off. Police said they were still investigating who shot first, but this was when both Toppins and police began to fire.

Winchester falls to the ground and scoots backward as Moseley and Moua scramble for cover. Meanwhile, an injured Doucette retreats into a nearby bedroom.

Police said that off camera, Toppins left the bathroom and attempted to flee the apartment through a bedroom window. However, Doucette managed to trap him under his body. As the pair struggled, Toppins' gun went off twice more, police said.

"Thank God neither one of them was shot during that struggle," Ferguson said.

Toppins' gun went off a total of nine times during his arrest, the NOPD said. By the end of the exchange, the bathroom door was covered in bullet holes.

The version of the videos that the NOPD released to the media cuts off there. But the department allowed reporters to watch a longer clip that shows apartment residents wailing as cops frantically struggle to handcuff Toppins and pull Doucette to safety.

The redacted version of the video also blurs out the faces of other apartment occupants. The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate is not publishing the video because of the disturbing nature of its content.

A woman inside the apartment, who identified herself as a relative of Toppins' accuser, later praised Doucette's actions in an interview with WWL-TV.

"He's a hero to me," the woman said. "He saved us."

However, the video also documents a number of issues under review as the NOPD conducts parallel criminal and administrative investigations.

New Orleans officers are supposed to have their body-worn cameras rolling during high-risk operations like arresting domestic violence suspects. Domestic violence calls are well known as some of the most dangerous that police officers routinely face.

Police are also supposed to wear body armor whenever they think they might wind up in a situation where they might need to make an arrest. Even officers on administrative assignments must wear a vest "while conducting or participating in any raid, warrant execution, or other pre-planned, high-risk situation," according to department policy.

The events leading up to the raid will also be under investigation, police said. Officers were summoned to the apartment by a "credible informant" rather than a 911 call, according to Sgt. David Barnes of the NOPD's Force Investigation Team.

"They received information. We're trying to determine where they received information from," Ferguson said.

Police said they were also investigating whether the cops involved in the arrest, who were all assigned to the 7th District, had called the department SWAT team for backup before they made entry.

Toppins, 28, remained in custody on Friday in lieu of $529,000 bail on counts including attempted first-degree murder of a police officer.

He's accused of roughing up or threatening to kill the mother of his children on at least five different occasions since last summer. Previously, he was convicted of shooting a girlfriend in the elbow in August 2016.

Meanwhile, Ferguson said Doucette is out of the hospital for now.

"He's out at this moment, but he's been back and forth on several occasions," Ferguson said. "The recovery will be extensive."

Mosely and Moua have returned to their regular jobs after a short period when they were put on desk duty, according to Ferguson. Winchester remains on administrative duty.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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