BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It was July 22, 2014 during the morning rush hour traffic in Ascension Parish on Hwy 42, west of Hwy 929, a few miles from Airline Hwy.
That portion of Hwy 42 is one lane in each direction with solid yellow lines down the middle, which means a "no passing zone."
Several cars were headed west on Hwy 42 with some trying to turn left into a parking lot. The driver of a Jeep was turning into that parking lot as well. Accident reports indicate Baton Rouge Police Officer on his police motorcycle, who was behind all those cars, went into the eastbound lane against oncoming traffic, and the Jeep and motorcycle crashed.
State police recently wrapped up their month-long investigation into the collision.
"We believe that officer went across those double yellow lines and attempted to pass some vehicles and there was a vehicle turning in front of him. We believe as that vehicle was making a legal left turn, that officer actually ran into that car," said State Police Trooper Jared Sandifer.
That however was the result of taking a second, closer look. Initially, troopers thought it was an open and shut case.
On the day on the accident, troopers had Officer Leonard Harry, a 16-year veteran of BRPD, fill out a statement about his involvement in the crash. Officer Harry wrote:
"While proceeding ------ bound on Hwy 42 a grey jeep turned in front of my marked police motorcycle 353. I then ejected off of the motorcycle which slid and hit the rear wheel of the jeep."
More than a week later, troopers went back to get another statement from Officer Harry. This time, Officer Harry wrote:
"While proceeding on Hwy 42 a grey jeep turned in front of my marked police causing me to eject of the motorcycle which struck the jeep. At this current date and time it is unclear to me if I was proceed west or east bound during the collision. I willingly accept the evidence which depicts my direction of travel."
"In interviewing this officer, we do believe that he made a couple of conflicting statements about what occurred in that crash," said Trooper Sandifer.
Troopers also interviewed a few witnesses to the crash as well as the driver of the jeep that was hit.
The driver of the jeep said the motorcycle officer gave her a witness statement to fill out, which she completed and gave back to him. She said she also observed a bystander help Officer Harry move his bike out of the roadway. She said Officer Harry gave that person a piece of paper, which the bystander wrote something on. She said Officer Harry then stuffed that piece of paper in his pocket.
However, in his final report, the investigating trooper wrote "He (Officer Harry) never provided these statements to me."
Also in the crash report, the trooper said Officer Harry was driving "using his emergency lights in order to get to an escort assignment in Baton Rouge." The officer went on to say he was going back home to pick up something he forgot and take an alternate route to his off duty detail.
When an officer drives with lights and or sirens, that is considered a "Code 3." Per BRPD's policy, "Code 3" is only to be used when there is "a reasonable probability of loss of life or great bodily harm exists or a violent incident is in progress or an ambulance is needed."
Again, troopers said Officer Harry told them his reason for lights or "Code 3," was because he was late for his off-duty assignment.
"What made it a little different is we think he had his lights on, that he was headed to work and police officers are held to the same if not higher standards than your general public," said Trooper Sandifer.
Troopers finished their investigation by saying "Conclusive evidence reveals driver #1 (Officer Harry) provided misleading and false statements regarding his involvement in this crash."
The 9News Investigators dug into Officer Harry's history with BRPD. He joined the force in 1998. Since joining the ranks, he's had 14 different alleged violations, some "sustained" with disciplinary action and others "not sustained."
- May 1999 --- General order's complaint (not sustained)
- Dec 1999 --- Damage of dept equipment (sustained - 1 day suspension & 30 day loss of unit)
- July 2000 --- Damage of dept equipment (sustained - 2 day suspension & 45 day loss of unit)
- Aug 2000 --- Damage of dept equipment (sustained - 7 day suspension & 120 day loss of unit)
- Oct 2000 -- Carrying out orders complaint (sustained - 1 day unpaid suspension)
- Nov 2000 --- Use of force complaint (not sustained)
- Aug 2001 -- Complaint of conduct unbecoming (not sustained)
- May 2003 -- Conduct unbecoming (not sustained)
- Oct 2004 --- Use of force (not sustained)
- July 2006 --- Carrying out orders (not sustained)
- April 2006 --- Office investigation of use of force (Investigation terminated)
- Jan 2012 --- Damage of dept equipment (sustained - letter of caution)
- Sept 2012 -- Damage of dept equipment (sustained - letter of caution)
- Oct 2012 --- Conduct unbecoming (sustained - anger management class)
In the recent wreck, State Police issued Officer Harry two tickets.
"The officer was cited for passing in a no passing zone and reckless operation," said Trooper Sandifer.
BRPD has launched an Internal Affairs investigation into the wreck, which is why Chief Carl Dabadie said he could not comment for the story. Officer Harry is on restricted duty pending the outcome of their investigation.