The Desire Terrorist
'My God, What Am I Getting Into?'
When he took the oath of office from Mayor Morial, "Chief" Pennington knew his job would not be an easy one. He had heard many of the horror stories ahead of time. He had even gone around the city, incognito, before his appointment was announced, watching some of the city's cops in action and seeing instances of police corruption firsthand. But he had no idea how bad the situation really was until a party held in his honor the night he was sworn in. An FBI agent came up to him amid the festivities and whispered in his ear that a "sting" operation was underway. The Bureau was secretly monitoring corrupt cops, especially those involved in large-scale drug-dealing.
The clandestine probe had been going on since December of the previous year and Pennington was made privy to some stunning revelations. More than fifty cops were under investigation for offenses ranging from shaking down nightclub owners to dealing in stolen merchandise to illegally profiting from leasing city equipment to visiting movie companies. "I wondered to myself, my God, what am I getting into?" Pennington told me in an interview for Data News Weekly, one of New Orleans's three black newspapers, in May 2002, shortly before he left office.
Less than eight hours after Pennington's swearing in, Groves became the first murder victim on his watch. She was victim number 341 for the year. Gunned down in front of the house she shared with her three children and her grandmother in the 1300 block of Alabo Street, she was just another tragic, faceless, "garden variety" statistic until early December when it was revealed that NOPD Patrolman Len Davis had ordered the "hit" on her. His cellphone conversations, describing her location and what she was wearing to Hardy, were captured on tape by the FBI, who were unable to discern at the time that a murder-for-hire was in progress.
Eager to do his friend's bidding and stay in the good graces of a New Orleans cop who was protecting and partnering with him in illegal drug deals, Hardy did as he was told. As accomplice Steve Jackson drove his 1991 Nissan Maxima into the Lower Ninth Ward, Hardy calmly got out and blew Groves away with a single shot to the head. As they drove away from the crime scene, Causey took charge of concealing the murder weapon. Hardy tossed the barrel into a waterway known as the Industrial Canal, attached a new one and handed it to Causey, who stashed the 9-millimeter Baretta in his Ninth Ward apartment.
When Hardy called Davis around 11 p.m. to report that the gruesome deed had been done, Davis triumphantly shrieked into the phone, "Yeah, yeah, yeah! Rock-a-bye!" His partner, Sammie Williams, rejoiced along with him.
When the news of this previously unthinkable collaboration between cops and desperadoes became public, it spawned a morbid brand of gallows humor. Times-Picayune columnist James Gill suggested that the solution to the city's crime problem might be to "hire fewer policemen." At a public meeting of a concerned neighborhood group, an elderly black woman stood up and announced, "We're gonna have to hire some criminals to protect us from the police!" How had the situation in the city deteriorated to such a low ebb?