By Kathy Finn
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - A New Orleans police officer who mishandled the arrest of an assault suspect who later shot and killed another officer now faces criminal charges stemming from his actions, authorities said on Tuesday.
Wardell Johnson, 39, a 12-year veteran of the New Orleans Police Department, was arrested on Monday and Superintendent Michael Harrison placed him on emergency suspension.
An Orleans Parish judge charged Johnson with malfeasance in office by tampering with records, theft and injuring public records, and set his bond at $30,000.
The charges stem from Johnson's actions during a June 20 arrest when he and his partner responded to a report of an aggravated assault and learned that 33-year-old Travis Boys had pointed a .40 caliber weapon at a woman and fired one shot, which did not wound the woman.
The officers recovered a .38 caliber weapon at the scene and one spent .40 caliber casing. Officers arrested Boys in connection with the incident and outstanding warrants.
Later, as Officer Daryle Holloway drove Boys to Central Lock-Up for booking, Boys, whose hands were shackled behind his back, managed to shoot Holloway from the back seat, crawl into the front of the car and run away.
Police arrested Boys nearly 24 hours later following a manhunt. He could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.
Johnson's arrest followed an investigation into how Boys was able to shoot Holloway and escape custody. Harrison said detectives reviewed footage from body cameras worn by Johnson and his partner and determined that Johnson deliberately left the .40 caliber casing at the crime scene and recovered a box of unused .40 caliber bullets, and did not process the casing or bullets as evidence.
Shortly after the interview, detectives observed Johnson removing the box of bullets from his vehicle and throwing them out of the window while driving along a city street.
Harrison did not directly connect Johnson's actions with the subsequent death of Holloway, who was shot with a .40-caliber gun, or offer a motive for Johnson's actions.
"I am extremely disgusted and outraged by the lack of professionalism and integrity shown by this officer," Harrison said in a statement. "This is an example of sloppy police work with a clear intent to cover it up, and it will not stand."
Harrison said the investigation into how Boys obtained a weapon and was able to escape custody is ongoing.
(Editing by Fiona Ortiz, Bernard Orr)