The Desire Terrorist
'A Police Death Squad'
"What happened on October 13, 1994, should not have happened in the United States of America," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike McMahon began in his closing remarks to the jury in Federal District Court for Eastern Louisiana. "We proved the existence of a death squad. A police death squad in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the United States of America."
Ten feet away from McMahon, seated at the defendants' table with a perpetual scowl on his fearsome-looking face, was 31-year-old Len Davis. Seated next to him, also sporting a defiant scowl, was 28-year-old Paul "Cool" Hardy. Sitting next to Hardy, looking somewhat fearful of possible consequences was 25-year-old Damon Causey. All three men stood accused of an assortment of murder charges. Seated with them were the grim-faced lawyers defending them. They had already delivered their closing arguments, desperately attempting to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors in the face of overwhelming evidence against their clients.
An ominous silence hung over the courtroom as McMahon recounted a detailed trail of evidence that pointed toward the guilt of the defendants. Crucial to the government's case were tape-recorded cellphone calls that ordered the hit on the victim. Unbeknownst to the three accused men, the FBI had been eavesdropping on what the defendants thought were private conversations. Even though the tapes had been played earlier in the trial, McMahon had them replayed to strengthen the arguments he was making on behalf of the victim and grieving members of her family who were seated in the courtroom. On the bench, Judge Ginger Berrigan intently watched McMahon as he meticulously laid out the federal government's case against the three accused men. The date was April 22, 1996.
Holding aloft a blown-up photograph of the attractive victim, 32-year-old Kim Marie Groves, McMahon said, "She had to die like a dog on the street because she got in Len Davis' way... Kim Groves deserves a little justice right now because in life she didn't get any... We're not supposed to have death squads in the United States of America."
Who was Kim Marie Groves, and why was the U.S. Attorney's office so intent on convicting those accused of taking part in her murder? At the time she was shot to death in New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward, she was a single mother of three children who worked as a part-time security guard at the Louisiana Superdome. When her death was reported in the Times-Picayune, New Orleans's daily newspaper, the story took up just three short paragraphs on the obit page. Murders, especially those that took place in the city's predominantly black housing projects and low-income neighborhoods, had become so commonplace in New Orleans at that time they rarely made news unless the victim was well known or was a tourist visiting the city. In police jargon, "black-on-black" murders were callously termed "garden variety."
However, two months later, when the full story of Groves' murder became public, it made front page headlines. Shock waves rumbled throughout the city and reverberated around the world, making headlines abroad. The man accused of orchestrating her killing was a decorated New Orleans police officer.
A decorated but thoroughly corrupt police officer in an American city had ordered a "hit" on an ordinary citizen; one who had reported him for police brutality only a day or two before she met her tragic end. The man hired to do the killing was a notorious drug kingpin with a long rap sheet that included other murder accusations. The third man standing accused of the murder took charge of dispensing with the murder weapon. Two other accomplices avoided murder charges in exchange for their testimony.
What emerged during the trial was the disclosure of the existence of an intricate network of police and drug dealers, working together to thwart the law and threatening to "take out" anyone who got in their way. Cops hanging out in sleazy bars with hardened criminals, conspiring to protect them from the laws they were sworn to uphold when they first donned their badges. Cops and criminals, buddy-buddy in illegal operations, moving crack cocaine onto the streets of New Orleans and into the city's low-income housing projects. Cops and criminals, killing without remorse and rejoicing over the deaths of their victims. Their story and the far-reaching ramifications of it follow.