THE INVESTIGATORS: Guns missing from evidence at BRPD flew under the radar for years
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Guns that were supposed to be taken off the streets were actually missing out from evidence at the Baton Rouge Police Department for four years.
The agency did not even realize the weapons were missing until they were found by some kids in a trash pile in Central in April.
Former BRPD officer Benjamin Zeringue is a free man for now. He got out of prison on an $18,000 bond but still faces a list of felonies after police say he stole guns that were supposed to be entered into evidence.
He faces three counts each of malfeasance in office, injuring public records, and theft of firearms.
Kids found the guns and ammunition he is accused of dumping in a box outside his home in Central.
”Once we were notified of the firearm property, we initiated our own investigation into those weapons,” said BRPD Deputy Chief Myron Daniels.
Those guns had been missing from BRPD evidence lock-up for four years but what remains unclear is why BRPD did not catch it. Back in 2020, the 9News Investigators sent in a public records request asking for an inventory of their evidence lock-up. WAFB specifically asked if all evidence from 2019 had been turned in and was accounted for. In a response to that request, WAFB got a letter that was sent to the chief.
The letter was dated January 2020 and says all evidence was inventoried and accounted for at the time. A spokesperson for the agency explains it’s up to the officer to actually bring that evidence to the evidence room but if it’s not brought there, then an inventory would not catch a problem.
According to the arrest report for Zeringue, he confiscated the weapons during three separate traffic stops while he was working uniform patrol in 2018 and 2019. Deputy Chief Daniels said records indicate the guns were entered into evidence. Now that they’ve been found on the side of the road by kids, BRPD’s current investigation reveals that never actually happened.
”They were supposed to be entered into our evidence. According to the reporting system those firearms were dropped into evidence which we found was inaccurate,” said Daniels.
This is not the first time Zeringue has been accused of problems with his evidence drops. Officials said he was disciplined for a prior issue with evidence while working for BRPD but he resigned abruptly not long after.
”He was actually disciplined for it and within days of him completing his discipline he resigned from the police department after being noted that there would be additional oversight into his behavior,” said Daniels.
”Everyone makes small mistakes but a large mistake like missing evidence, I wouldn’t want them working here,” said Chief Roger Corcoran. “I wouldn’t want them working for any police department. They don’t belong in law enforcement.”
Even after being disciplined for the problem with evidence at BRPD, Zeringue did continue in law enforcement. He worked at the West Feliciana Sheriff’s Office for a year and a half beginning in July 2020. He also spent about four months at the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office. He resigned from that spot back in April around the same time those guns were found in Central.
It’s unclear how much those agencies looked into his background before he was hired but Corcoran said law enforcement has to do a better job of keeping those caught up in bad behavior from jumping to another agency and wearing a badge.
”There’s always a problem because when they put in an application they might not put an agency that they worked for on an application. We have to do our due diligence. We have to contact these agencies and talk to them, ask them why they left and why they’re no longer employed there. And if they were in trouble we need to get to the bottom of what kind of trouble they were in,” added Corcoran.
The bottom line is Corcoran believes Zeringue should never be allowed to serve in law enforcement again.
”If they are a bad apple, don’t let them go to another agency. They can find another job somewhere else because we do not need them in law enforcement,” explained Corcoran.
WAFB did ask BRPD for an interview on this report. That interview was not granted. However, BRPD released a statement on the matter Tuesday evening after the report was filed.
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