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ProPublica: Law and Disorder

After Katrina, New Orleans Police
Shot Frequently and Asked Few Questions

Some of the Complaints Levied Against Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann

This story was co-published with the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Related Story: No Discipline for New Orleans Cop in 15 Shooting Incidents, 50 Complaints

  • In 2002, a 24-year-old suspected drug dealer complained that Scheuermann used excessive force and conducted an improper body cavity search in an arrest outside an eastern New Orleans gas station. Scheuermann retrieved cocaine from the ground near the suspect and the complainant later pleaded guilty.

    NOPD investigators determined that Scheuermann did not have the authority to carry a shotgun he pointed at people near the arrest scene. The NOPD ruled that Scheuermann used unnecessary force in straddling, punching and pepper-spraying the handcuffed suspect. He also conducted an improper strip search. Furthermore, Scheuermann failed to mention the shotgun or the search of the suspect's buttocks in a police report. The NOPD suspended Scheuermann for four days and he appealed the decision to the city's Civil Service Commission.

    Following a lengthy civil service hearing, the hearing examiner, a former NOPD cop, called the case was "a great waste of time" and wrote that the NOPD should be embarrassed for having pursued it. The examiner, Harry Tervalon, wrote that Scheuermann is an "aggressive officer and probably testified in court more than any other officer" involved in drug investigations. Scheuermann's appeal was granted.
  • In 2000, a 20-year-old son of an NOPD officer complained that Scheuermann berated him and struck him with a baton during a traffic stop. Scheuermann booked the man with public intoxication, disturbing the peace, underage drinking, resisting arrest and tampering with evidence. After learning the complainant was the son of an officer, Scheuermann allegedly drove the him home and told his father he would drop the incident if they agreed not to file a complaint against him. When the case came up in Municipal Court, the police dropped all the charges against the young man, who in turn dropped his complaint against Scheuermann, according to court records.
  • In 2003, Scheuermann supervised a group of more than a dozen officers who conducted a questionable search-and-seizure. Scheuermann ordered two female officers to search the buttocks and vaginas of three females -- a 51-year-old, a 23-year-old and a 1-year-old. The police said they were looking for a shotgun, a rifle, two body armor vests, two license plates, a flashlight and a holster. None of those items were located, according to police records. The city later paid out $45,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging Scheuermann and the other officers violated the family's civil rights.
  • In 2004, another police lieutenant alleged Scheuermann interfered with investigations, neglected duty, lied, and filed false and inaccurate reports. The investigation was later canceled, according to a notation in Scheuermann's file. The basis for the accusations and the reason for the cancellation is unknown. The NOPD says the file was lost.
  • On Sept. 1, 2005, days after Katrina, Scheuermann and a colleague shot a 28-year-old man on a downtown overpass while responding to a report of rapes and mayhem. Scheuermann and Capt. Jeff Winn said they saw a man with a handgun lying in wait and they shot him. The NOPD conducted a cursory investigation and justified the officers' actions. The FBI opened a probe into the matter after media reports noted discrepancies in the case. The federal investigation is pending. The incident is not noted in Scheuermann's personnel file. In addition, the gunfire is not mentioned on an internal list of Scheuermann's weapons discharges.
  • On Sept. 2, 2005, Scheuermann and a colleague allegedly beat two men at a makeshift police compound and commandeered a vehicle with another man's body inside it. The pair allegedly parked the car near a levee in Algiers and lit it on fire. Scheuermann and officer Greg McRae were each indicted on five federal counts in June of this year. The trial is scheduled for Nov. 8. If convicted, they each face up to 60 years in prison.
  • In January 2009, Scheuermann was accused of false imprisonment and neglect of duty. For the past 18 months, the NOPD declined to release details and records on the matter, calling it a pending investigation. Last week, an NOPD spokesman said the "administration elected to postpone" the investigation until Scheuermann returned from a lengthy sick leave. The complaints were sustained by the Public Integrity Bureau, but the matter remains open until a disciplinary hearing with NOPD higher-ups is held. That hearing is scheduled for later this week.

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