NEW ORLEANS >> A handcuffed prisoner in a moving police cruiser managed to grab a gun, fatally shoot the officer at the wheel and escape from the vehicle, which careened into a utility pole at a busy intersection, police said Saturday.
Officer Daryle Holloway, 45, died at a hospital, police chief Michael Harrison said. Meanwhile, an intense manhunt was on for Travis Boys, 33, the suspect who had been arrested on an aggravated assault charge and was being taken to jail when he escaped.
The New Orleans Crimestoppers organization announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to Boys’ arrest.
Rifle-toting police in bullet-proof vests, some with trained canines, searched whole blocks of one neighborhood about a mile from the city’s French Quarter Sunday afternoon. Residents clustered on street corners to watch as officers checked backyards and examined crawl spaces under houses.
“He will be caught and he will be brought to justice for the murder of Officer Holloway and for this assault on our entire community,” Harrison said in a police department statement.
The shooting happened Saturday morning as Boys was handcuffed in the back seat of the vehicle. Boys managed to get his hands from behind his back to the front and obtain a weapon as well, Harrison told reporters at the scene in a video interview posted on the department’s Facebook page.
Boys got to the front seat through an opening in the cage that separates front and back seats and shot Holloway, Harrison said.
“Officer Holloway put up a fight to try to get the subject to not exit the vehicle but succumbed to his injuries,” Harrison said.
Department spokesman Tyler Gamble said police were trying to determine what weapon Boys used and how he obtained it, but do not believe Boys used the officer’s gun.
John Polk, who lives around the corner from where the police SUV came to rest, said he was just awakening when he heard a loud noise and his power went out. The noise, he figured, was an electrical transformer blowing.
“I look out the door — I’d heard the boom — I see the fire truck here on the corner,” he said. It was only later 45 minutes later, after police had swarmed into the area that he learned what happened.
A helicopter circled overhead as marked and unmarked units from state police and other law enforcement agencies cruised the side streets. Utility workers worked to replace the downed power pole.
State police, St. Tammany Parish deputies, Housing Authority of New Orleans police and the U.S. Marshals Service were among those searching for Boys.
Police seeking Boys halted traffic Saturday into an area of several city blocks of the St. Roch neighborhood not far from where the shooting occurred. Officers kept people from entering the area, and others from leaving.
Vincent Alexander, a prep cook at Margaritaville restaurant in the French Quarter, said he was walking home from work when police detoured him a short distance from his house. “I just called my roommate. They’re not letting him get out the house.”
Holloway had been a member of the New Orleans Police Department since 1992. He was the father of three children.
Harrison said Holloway was not the arresting officer but was transporting Boys to a jail when the shooting occurred.
Harrison said he met with two of those children and Holloway’s former wife at the hospital after he died. “As a new chief, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life,” said Harrison, who became chief last year.
He said he had known Holloway for 23 years and described him as “a great police officer.”
Mayor Mitch Landrieu decried the killing as “the lowest of the low” and called on the public to help police with information on Boys’ whereabouts.
“Killing an officer in the line of duty is an attack on our community that will not stand,” Landrieu said in a statement. “The heart and soul of New Orleans is heavy today as our community mourns one of our city’s finest.”
The last New Orleans Police Department officer killed in the line of duty was Officer Rodney Thomas on July 7, 2013, according to Gamble. More recently, a Housing Authority police officer, James Bennett Jr., 45, was found shot to death in his patrol car.