Justice for Janell Landry

Parish of Incident: Jefferson

Law Enforcement Agency: Kenner Police Department

My name is Janell Landry and I am from New Orleans, Louisiana. I am a woman who is straightforward and honest, unafraid to tell people how it is. I had an easygoing experience growing up and am an active member in the community.

On the night of September 11, 2020, around 10:00 p.m., I was home alone watching T.V. when I heard shots outside my door. After a moment, I peeked outside and saw two boys coming to my front door, one no older than ten and the other 14 or 15. The older boy was bleeding and asked me to call 911. I did and went to get a towel for the boy. I stayed on the phone with 911 for about ten minutes while I held a towel to the boy’s back where the bullet had exited.

Once the police and paramedics arrived, they put the injured boy in the back of an ambulance and began asking him for his ID, questioning who they were and where he lived or worked. The little boy was trying to get close to the older boy in the ambulance, but one of the police officers said, “Shoo!” and then pushed him away, as if he was some stray dog. The other police grabbed their friend and told him to calm down. It made me upset to see them treat the little boy that way, since he was obviously concerned for his friend or brother.

I don’t know what happened to the boys, because the police walked up to my driveway and began to ask me questions. They noticed a bullet had struck my car that was sitting in the driveway and ricocheted into my house. At this point, another detective named Nick Engler began asking if I owned any weapons. I told him I did, and that I had all the paperwork. When I went inside to get the paperwork, he barged into my house, went to my bedroom, and began rifling through my drawers and personal belongings.

I was confused why he was in my house when the bullet hole was only at the front of my house, and I had not consented to a search. I told Engler he needed a search warrant, which seemed to anger him. He told me he would go to the judge and come back that night. About four police officers waited with me for three to four hours while Engler was gone. When he returned with the warrant, I read that it only gave them permission to remove the ballet from the wall, but he went right back to the same bedroom drawer he was searching three hours earlier. While he was searching, he made racist comments like, “Only you guys have so many people living in the house like this” and “How do y’all live like this?” It was clear to me his aggressive search was partially motivated by the fact I am an African American woman.

I recorded the entire search on Facebook Live. At one point, Detective Engler got up in my face and yelled at me without a mask covering his face to give him my phone. I thought this was extremely dangerous since it was during the peak of COVID, and when I told him so, he became even angrier. I tried to appeal to the sergeant in charge who was by the door, but he told me that Engler was just doing his job. They ended up taking my cellphone and my legally registered weapon that night. They also took video evidence from my neighbor’s porch cameras which clearly showed that I was not involved in the incident. Because they took my neighbor’s video evidence, I thought that I had nothing to worry about.

Later in the week, Detective Engler called me and told me I had a warrant out for my arrest for obstruction of justice. Although I was frustrated, I wanted to do what was right and turn myself in. I went to the Kenner Police Department, but they told me there was no arrest warrant for me. This happened at least three more times that week—Engler tells me I had to turn myself in, I go to the police department, and they tell me there was no warrant. I went so many times the receptionist would tell me before I asked that there was no warrant. I even drove 30 minutes to the Gretna Jefferson Parish Jail twice to verify there was no warrant.

In January, I went to court with my attorney in order to resolve the issue and to recovery my property, which they told me was cleared the day after the incident. Detective Engler was there, waiting for me and smiling. He took me into a small room across from the courtroom and told me that he filed the paperwork the night previous, and that I was under arrest. He never read me my rights. He simply cuffed me and put me on the bench outside the room to wait for the judge.

Beginning January 4, 2021, I was held in prison for four days. I was pregnant at the time, but they didn’t give me my medicine for my pregnancy or my heart and thyroid issues. A few months later, I miscarried from the stress.

I was forced to pay a $15,000 bail bond to be released in addition to my attorney’s fees. When I went to recover my property six months later, I was forced to confront Detective Engler, who apologized like he grew up with me and said he would be dropping the charges. Later in the year, I went to the Jefferson Parish Commissioner for an expungement, but Hurricane Ida prevented me from submitting my documents immediately. I am now stuck with a misdemeanor and a felony charge, which has affected the quality of my life dramatically. Before this incident, I had no record and had never been to prison. Now, I am prevented from opening my small business which requires an ATC license.

Detective Nick Engler should be held accountable for his actions. The fact that someone can barge into my house, go through my personal belongings, harass me, lie to me, make racist comments to me, and then arrest me when I was merely a bystander who went out of her way to help some kid in the neighborhood makes me furious. The police should not be allowed to do what they want to do. They should be following the law just as much as the people. Too often they act as if whatever they say goes, whether it’s wrong or right, because they know they will not be held accountable.

I want a way to file reports on the police without having to go to the actual police, like an informant system that will generate true accountability. The relationship between the police and the Black community doesn’t get addressed, because people don’t think anything will be done.

It’s absurd that the statute of limitations for suits against the police in Louisiana is one year, which is prohibitive in my case. It shouldn’t matter if it happened one year ago or ten years ago, the police should not be allowed to do what they did to me. I am going to keep fighting this until I can’t anymore, telling my story to whoever will listen. If you have had a similar experience, my message to you is to not give up. We will demand justice.

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