By: Ramon Antonio Vargas for New Orleans Advocate
As dangerous as police work is, many officers make it through their whole careers without being shot. Chris Abbott of the New Orleans Police Department is not one of those officers.
In the past 19 years, Abbott has survived being shot in the head, in the chest, in the stomach and in the shoulder.
He likely would have drowned in Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters if he hadn’t blasted his attic roof away.
Then, early Monday morning, a bullet fired from a passing vehicle hit Abbott in the leg while he worked a paid detail for an Uptown neighborhood organization.
Police said Abbott emerged from his latest attack in good condition. But, for at least the third time in his 25-year career, his colleagues were left searching for someone who apparently attempted to end Abbott’s life — a turn of events veteran members of the local law enforcement community found astonishing.
According to officials, Abbott was patrolling the area of Camp and Leontine streets in his personal car while on detail with the Hurstville Security and Neighborhood Improvement District when he noticed a gray SUV speeding up behind him about 1:15 a.m.
Abbott said he pulled over to the side of the street. The other vehicle slowed down, and someone in it fired several shots. One round struck Abbott — who was wearing his New Orleans police uniform — in the leg.
Abbott went to University Medical Center, where he was reported to be in good condition, Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said.
“He was joking with the chief in the hospital” after the shooting, said NOPD spokesman Beau Tidwell. “He’s doing well, all things considered.”
Both Tidwell and Shelley Landrieu, the Hurstville district’s executive director, said it was not unusual for Abbott to be patrolling in his private car. Landrieu said officers who work for the district’s neighborhood watch use both marked cars and private vehicles, depending on how visible the officers want to be during their patrols.
The SUV used to attack Abbott may have had its rear window removed or shot out, police said. They released a surveillance image of the vehicle but didn’t discuss any potential suspects or a possible motive in the shooting.
In any case, Monday was not the first time Abbott was on the receiving end of a gunshot.
On his way to court to testify in a criminal case in May 2001, he said, he stopped to question a suspicious man carrying a gun near Dumaine and North Johnson streets in Treme. Brandy Jefferson shot him in the stomach and shoulder, police said. When Abbott fell, Jefferson — who had a forehead tattoo reading “no mercy” — fired twice more into the back of the officer’s head.
“It wasn’t somebody trying to get away. He tried to kill me,” Abbott would later say, according to a media account. “He shot me, then he shot me, then he shot me twice more.”
Despite being taken to a hospital in serious condition, Abbott made a full recovery, and prosecutors tried Jefferson on charges of attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
At his trial, Jefferson claimed that he had been paying Abbott to let Jefferson deal drugs with impunity and to provide information on which drug dealers the police were preparing to bust, court records show.
Jefferson claimed that he told Abbott he wanted out of the arrangement and threatened to expose it to the FBI, and that he fired only when he was attacked by Abbott, who was enraged at what Jefferson told him that day, according to court records.
The jury rejected Jefferson’s sensational claims and convicted him. He was sentenced to life in prison under Louisiana’s habitual offender law.
Three years before that, as one of the city’s first community policing officers, Abbott was on patrol in the former C.J. Peete — or Magnolia — public housing development when he tried to stop a man following a complaint about a man with a gun in the area. Abbott was shot once, though a bulletproof vest he was wearing saved him from injury.
Police later released a sketch of the man who shot Abbott. It was not clear Monday whether an arrest was ever made in that case.
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