Officer fired for lying about chase that led to Uptown teen’s death

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The officer involved in a high-speed chase down Milan Street that led to the death of a college student home for the holidays in January was fired from the NOPD this week for lying about the case, authorities said.

Officer Justin Ferris was pursuing a car after its occupants allegedly discarded what appeared to be narcotics during a traffic stop, police said at the time. As the suspects attempted to elude the officer, they crashed into another uninvolved car at Milan and Freret, where 18-year-old Mariah Woods was sitting. The Xavier Prep graduate was home from her first semester at Northwestern State University, and her death led to widespread mourning throughout the neighborhood and the school community.

The full text of the announcement of Ferris’ termination is below:

Superintendent Ronal Serpas fired Officer Justin Ferris today after a thorough investigation by the Public Integrity Bureau revealed that Ferris broke several departmental rules while in pursuit of a driver who refused to pull over last January.

Ferris was authorized to pursue the car because the car’s occupants were observed dumping what appeared to be narcotics from the vehicle.

While chasing the car, investigators say Ferris disregarded NOPD vehicle pursuit rules when he ran through several stop signs and followed the car at a high speed in the wrong direction down a one-way street.

Investigators also say Ferris broke NOPD truthfulness rules when he said he ended the chase as soon as he realized he was driving the wrong way down a one-way street. In-car video shows he did not stop pursuing the car. Ferris also claimed he radioed a dispatcher to say he had ended the chase. But a review of the dispatcher’s audio tapes included no such comments from Ferris.

The car Ferris was chasing ended up colliding with another vehicle near the intersection of Milan and Freret Streets. One woman in the car that was not involved in the chase was killed. Another woman in that same vehicle was severely injured.

Four counts of Neglect of Duty and one count of Being Untruthful were sustained against Ferris at a disciplinary hearing held today. Upon reviewing the facts presented by PIB, Superintendent Serpas fired Ferris.

Ferris had been with the NOPD for 4 years.

Superintendent Serpas said, “This was a tragic event that resulted in the death of a completely innocent person and the severe injury of another. Such reckless conduct by NOPD officers will not be tolerated. And just as important- untruthfulness with investigators or any NOPD personnel will lead to immediate dismissal.”

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