Two HPD officers resign

State Police investigation nears end

 

MICHELLE BATES, Editor

The two Homer Police officers involved in the shooting death of Bernard Monroe Sr. have resigned.

According to town records, Officers Tim Cox and Joseph Henry turned in their letters of resignation on Wednesday, July 27. Their resignations were effective on July 17, but the confirmation of their official resignations didn’t come in until July 29. Their effective dates were set for July 17 because of payroll dates, said Town Attorney Jim Colvin.

“Both of them wanted to pursue other employment opportunities, and Tim Cox has relocated to south Louisiana, to St. Tammany Parish,” Colvin said.

The Associated Press has reported Colvin saying that Cox may be “training canines for police departments.” Joseph Henry is working for Pafford Ambulance Services as a paramedic. Henry’s alternate employment had been already authorized by  Homer Police Chief Russell Mills, previous to the February 20 incident.

The police department’s policies and procedures manual allows for alternate employment with the authorization and discretion of the police chief as long as it does not interfere with police work, Colvin said.

Mills said the two officers just realized it was time for them to move forward with their lives.

“They decided that it was time for them to move on,” Mills said. “They knew that regardless of the outcome of the investigation – and after four months – they realized that they needed to move forward with their lives.”

Colvin said their resignations solved two problems the town was facing: the town no longer has to pay their salaries and there is no liability on the town.

“I think it gets us to where we need to be,” Colvin said in Monday night’s council meeting. “It solves the problems that we have, and it allows the town, at least from that perspective, to move forward so that we don’t have to worry about issues surrounding continued employment and continued payment of salaries without work being performed. At the same time, it does not expose the town to any type of civil liability as it exists against the police officers.”

The Rev. Willie Young, president of the Claiborne chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said he’s pleased the two have resigned.

“It’s something that we’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” he said in a phone interview with The Guardian-Journal. “I believe they were on the payroll too long, and I believe that the citizens of Homer should get some of their money back. The citizens of Homer are better served with the resignation of these two officers. We want the law to hold them responsible for the things that were unfair and unjust. I think it’s wise that they resigned, and I look forward to getting this investigation behind us and putting our community back together.”

The Homer Police Department has been operating understaffed since February, Mills said, and since the incident with former officer Mike Rayburn, they have been extremely understaffed.

In May, Rayburn shot himself and has been in Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in critical condition. According to reports, Rayburn remains hospitalized.

“The town has absorbed hundreds of hours of overtime and insurance costs,” the chief said.

Since February 20, the Town of Homer has had to absorb those costs as well as overtime payments for the officers who have worked countless hours in the last four months to cover shifts left open by the absence of the two officers.

Since the resignations of Cox and Henry, Mills is now able to work towards filling the three positions within his department.

“At this point in time, we are looking into hiring more officers,” Russell said. “I have three slots to fill.”

Monroe was shot and killed Friday, February 20, after he allegedly engaged the two police officers with a loaded handgun. Louisiana State Police took over the investigation, but has yet to release its report.

In a previous statement, Colvin said investigators had informed him that the report would go to the district attorney’s office upon completion. District Attorney Jonathan Stewart still maintains that he’s not received the report.

The town had asked Colvin to conduct an investigation to determine how long the officers would remain on administrative leave with pay. That investigation is now moot, Colvin said.

“Now we’re just waiting on the state police report,” he said.

The Guardian-Journal made contact with Region II investigators Thursday, July 30, after weeks of failed attempts.

According to Lt. Kenny Van Buren, with Region II Criminal Investigations Division, their investigation is coming to a close.

“We’re still not releasing any information until the investigation is complete,” he said. “I can say this: we are nearing the end, but I can’t give you a date. Given the nature of the situation, we have to make sure it’s right. Given the national attention it’s received, we can’t afford to make any mistakes. We understand the frustration. It’s just a very, very tedious process.”

With speculation reaching a fever-pitch level, many in the community have expressed their concerns of a cover up. When asked about this, Van Buren said he understands the community wants answers and he is asking for the community’s patience due to the issues that could arise from releasing too much information.

“What people don’t understand is that if we start leaking information, then you propose problems and issues for the district attorney,” he said. “It puts us in a precarious situation as well because we have to be very cautious about the information we do put out. We understand that this opens up the doors for speculation, but we hope the community will understand why we have to be so guarded on the information we put out. We know this has been difficult for the community because they want answers. It’s been five months now, and we understand that’s been a long time. It has been a challenge.”

Young said he’s anticipating the end of the investigation, because it’s time for the community to move forward.

“We have a nice town and a great parish, and I think we need to put this behind us,” he said. “I ask that everyone continue to pray for Mr. Bernard Monroe’s family and the community, as we remain ever vigilant that something this tragic won’t happen again.”

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