Patrolling one August night, New Orleans police officer Stephen Neveaux and his partner heard a series of explosions. Soon, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune, they saw a man standing about 50 feet away in the street, pointing a gun. Pop, pop. The gunman glanced at the cops, then turned and fired twice again into darkness. Neveaux, 26, with less than four years’ experience, hesitated. A shooting — the first he’s witnessed — unfolded right in front of him, but in his mind, it all seems surreal.
The moment cut to the essence of being a police officer in a city with 200 murders and hundreds more shootings every year. A split-second decision can get a cop killed or make him kill; disgrace her or make her a hero; fill him with pride, or doubt and second-guessing. When Neveaux’s moment came that night, he chose to hold his fire and let the car crawl forward. His partner said she tried to step out, but that he ordered her back into the car. He said he thought they needed cover, that they hadn’t had time to assess the situation. The gunman fled, and now Neveaux has been fired for cowardice and neglect of duty.