Criminal Defense Attorney New Orleans
New Orleans officer quits after ‘thug’ comment about Trayvon Martin killing
By Brendan McCarthy, Times Picayune
The white New Orleans police officer who posted insensitive remarks on an online news story about the killing of a black Florida teen resigned Tuesday afternoon, one day after he was indefinitely suspended from the force without pay. Officer Jason Giroir, who is under investigation for his role in the recent shooting of a young black man in Mid-City, resigned in light of the scrutiny over comments he posted Sunday on a wwltv.com story about an unrelated fatal shooting in Florida last month.
Giroir, 35, of Covington, wrote “Act like a Thug Die like one!” on an article about citizens rallying to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old who was killed while wearing a hooded sweatshirt and walking through a gated community.
Martin’s encounter with a gun-wielding neighborhood watch volunteer has sparked a national debate about racial profiling and the morality of “stand your ground” laws, which allow people being attacked to defend themselves with force if necessary.
Giroir, who joined the NOPD in 1999, resigned Tuesday after learning that NOPD investigators had sustained misconduct charges against him and that a disciplinary hearing was being scheduled, according to the NOPD. The department determined he violated internal regulations regarding professionalism, professional conduct, and performance of duty.
“My responsibility to the people of New Orleans, as well as to the professional officers on this police force, demanded I take swift action in this matter,” Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said.
After a commenter named Eddie Johnson criticized Giroir’s initial comments on wwltv.com as racist, Giroir responded: “Eddie come on down to our town with a “Hoodie” and you can join Martin in HELL and talk about your racist stories!:-P”
Giroir’s wife also posted a similar comment under the story: “He acted like a thug and died like one.”
Giroir’s attorney, Eric Hessler, said his client apologized to the NOPD in his resignation letter. “He chose to resign as a personal decision because of the unintended turmoil his comments caused. Of course he regrets making those comments.”
Hessler said he didn’t believe that the violations against Giroir warranted termination and pointed out that other officers had violated the same rules and faced light discipline.
The resignation came hours after Danatus King, head of the local branch of the NAACP, and others held a news conference to denounce the comments and demand Giroir’s termination. King said the city is on the verge of civil unrest and that Giroir’s statement about “another black youth killed under questionable circumstances” only inflames the “incendiary atmosphere.”
“This has touched a nerve in our community,” King said.
King went through a long list of cases involving the NOPD’s mistreatment of young black men, ranging from police killings and cover-ups in the Danziger Bridge, Henry Glover and Raymond Robair cases in recent years, to the Adolph Archie and Algiers 7 cases of decades earlier. King and other community and civil rights activists have long painted the NOPD as a racist organization.
He also noted that thousands of tourists will be visiting the city this weekend for the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament. “How many of them are black?” King asked rhetorically. “How many are wearing apparel where they would look like a thug?”
Mid-City patrols scrutinized
Last summer, a flap erupted after a high-ranking NOPD commander reportedly told dozens of officers during a roll call meeting to target young black men in and around the French Quarter on the weekend of Essence Festival. Some officers who heard the instruction viewed it as racial profiling. City and police leaders decried the remarks and the supervisor, Commander Eddie Selby, retired shortly after the NOPD initiated an investigation.
Around that time, King and associates called for a federal probe into the Mid-City Security District, a neighborhood police patrol that utilizes off-duty NOPD officers. An email from a patrol supervisor surfaced in which he threatened to take officers off the overtime patrol if the numbers of traffic stops didn’t increase.
The NAACP and others said the order encouraged racial profiling and illegal stops.
It was during one of those patrols — an overtime shift — that Giroir stopped the Sipp brothers earlier this month. A shootout ensued shortly later. Police allege Justin Sipp opened fire on three police officers, prompting them to shoot back.
Two officers, Anthony Mayfield Jr. and Michael Asevedo, were severely wounded. Giroir, who was uninjured, fired his gun once. Mayfield fired several times. Police said Sipp fired 14 bullets at police. Police officials have not suggested that the shooting was unjustified, though an investigation is ongoing.
Giroir was assigned to desk duty in the wake of the shooting, but he returned to active duty in mid-March after passing a psychological evaluation and answering investigators’ questions, police spokeswoman Remi Braden said. Despite Giroir’s resignation, the investigation continues, and the NOPD will turn over the results to the district attorney’s office, Braden said.