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Monday, February 23, 2009

Off Duty Prank Gets One Cop Arrested, Three Fired

Off duty prank results in arrest of one Gretna police officer, termination of three others
The Times Piccyune - February 20, 2009

What started as a prank by off duty Gretna police officers and an acquaintance to hide a fellow bar patron's motorcycle ended up getting one officer arrested and three others fired. Officer Gustavo Rivera Jr., a 2.5 year veteran, has been arrested on charges of principal to theft on approximately $10,000 value, obstruction of justice and malfeasance in office. Rommel Figueroa, a two-year reserve officer; Doug Zemlik, an eight-year veteran; and James Gregoire III, who served four years, were fired for violating security of operations, duty to inform supervisors and for unsatisfactory performance. "It's never a good day in law enforcement when it comes to a fact that you have to arrest one of your own officers on an incident such as this where severe criminal activity has occurred and resulted in termination of several officers for basically poor judgment," Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson said. "What started out as a practical joke ended up in a very, very bad situation."

The incident took place Dec. 18 at the Ivory Lounge on Franklin Street, where the officers and an acquaintance, Daniel Kempton, "exchanged glares, glances and stares," with the owner of the motorcycle inside the bar, Lawson said. The officers then persuaded Kempton to move the motorcycle, which was reported stolen the next day to Gretna Police Department. Rivera and Figueroa denied any involvement in an ensuing internal investigation, saying that they did not know Kempton, who took the motorcycle, or where it was. The investigation was turned over to the West Bank Major Crimes Task Force investigators, when internal affairs learned that the officers may have been involved in the incident. The task force obtained video from the lounge's surveillance system showing Rivera and Figueroa talking with Kempton, who then pushed the motorcycle away while Rivera followed in his car. Rivera is caught on tape returning several minutes later to pick up Figueroa. "It certainly is not a good day for the Gretna Police Department and law enforcement throughout the metropolitan police area," Lawson said. Kempton, of River Ridge, was arrested Jan. 9 for theft valued at $10,000. The motorcycle was recovered Thursday from Kempton, who may face additional charges of obstruction of justice. He has prior convictions for theft over $500 and possession of cocaine, and currently has two open domestic violence cases with the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office.

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