Oris Buckner III, a former black police detective and whistleblower who exposed police brutality following the 1980 shooting death of a white officer in New Orleans, has died. He was 70 years old.
Buckner participated but later reported on the interrogations of black people interrogated after a young white officer was killed in 1980 near a predominantly African-American housing project in Algiers, on the city’s west bank.
The ex-officer died unexpectedly last Wednesday in Houston, his wife, Stephanie Buckner, told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate on Friday. Family members told the newspaper that Buckner died of sepsis while battling leukemia and diabetes.
Buckner was the second black detective in the New Orleans department and his whistleblower testimony that year cost him dearly. He spoke about the treatment of black people questioned in the days following the still unsolved shooting death of officer Gregory Neupert.
“He was reviled by his fellow officers for breaking code blue. He and his family were subjected to physical threats,” said Morris Reed, then a federal prosecutor who worked on the case. “He was stigmatized. They ostracized him. I think it worked on his psyche. At the time, New Orleans police killed four black men in raids. No one has been charged with the murders, but seven officers have been charged with federal brutality alleging they beat others.
The indictment alleged that officers held people, sometimes in cells, until 4 p.m.
“Some of these individuals were handcuffed or tied to chairs during questioning,” the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a summary of other allegations. ”Several were beaten with fists or books or both. Johnny Brownlee and Robert Davis were also bagged, a process by which officers placed a bag over the victim’s head and temporarily sealed the bottom to cut off the air supply. Davis and Brownlee also accused the officers of taking them separately to secluded or wooded areas and beating them, according to the ruling.
Four of the officers were acquitted. Three Buckner testified against were convicted of beating and “bagging” Davis. They were also convicted of conspiracy “to employ unlawful means to solve the Neupert murder,” the 5th Circuit wrote in confirming their convictions.
“Buckner, who testified under immunity, admitted that he participated in the beating,” the opinion read.
He said he did not testify about another of Davis’s allegations – “that three officers drove him from police headquarters to an isolated area of Algiers where he was beaten and threatened with a firearm by several police officers”. “After hearing all the evidence, the jury was faced with a fundamental conflict: Davis and Buckner testified that Davis was beaten and the defendants argued that he was treated properly,” the 5th Circuit opinion stated. . ” Weighing contradictory evidence and inferences and determining the relative credibility of witnesses is a matter for the jury. Civil rights attorney Mary Howell, who represented those abused in the days after Neupert’s murder, said Buckner ended up being assigned to the city’s taxi office “checking taxi medallions” after his testimony.
“The truth was out there in the community because people knew these things were happening. There were too many stories. But knowing it and proving it were two different things,” Howell said. “It was through Oris’ testimony that this was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.” Buckner’s sister, film actress Carol Sutton, died in 2020.
Buckner, an ordained minister who earned a degree at Loyola University while in the force, moved to Houston after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005. He taught criminal justice at Lee College, a community college in the suburb of Baytown, Texas.
“I think my dad was more of a prophet of God than a crime inhibitor,” Oris Buckner IV, one of his six children, told the newspaper. “His job is tied to his faith, and that’s what he was. His life was about walking with God and using what God had given him to protect others and try to do the right thing.
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)