United States Attorney Jim Letten, New Orleans’ best-known crime-fighter, reviewed a victim impact statement read aloud at the recent federal court sentencing of a convicted hit man.
“I urge anyone who wants to understand how violent crime and corruption affects a life to read that ‘impact statement,’” Letten says of remarks authored by Corey Groves, a self-described happily married black father of five children.
Groves describes overcoming drug abuse, prison and years of dark anger towards the police – after the1994 murder of his mother, police brutality witness Kim Marie Groves.
Ms. Groves was fatally shot on a 9th Ward street by Paul “Cool” Hardy, a drug dealer-cum-contract-killer, on orders from rogue NOPD cop Len E. Davis. Groves’ three young children saw their mother as she lay dying in a pool of blood.
“Losing a loved one isn’t an easy thing for any family, but when that loved one is murdered, it really destroys lives in ways that aren’t easy to put into words – especially when that loved one takes her last breath in the arms of her child,” said Corey Groves, the victim’s only son and the oldest of her three children.
Corey and his sister Jasmine (who also addressed the court) were both only 12 when their mother died. Their sister Stephanie Groves was 16.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said: “The statements from Corey and Jasmine Groves are simply heartbreaking. Len Davis took away not only their mother, but the community’s trust in the NOPD as an institution.”
Mayors and police chiefs have been trying to regain the public’s confidence in the force ever since.
On Oct. 13, 1994, the same night “reform” police chief Richard Pennington was sworn in at Gallier Hall, Paul Hardy got out of a 1991 champagne-colored Nissan Maxima parked in the Lower 9th Ward. His two accomplices remained in the car. It was a clear night, about 80 degrees.
Hardy had to hurry.
One hour earlier, NOPD Officer Len Davis had called to complain that the drug dealer and his crew had not handled their business.
In other words, Kim Marie Groves was still alive.
In fact, she was talking with people on a 9th Ward street corner.
Davis watched her as he canvassed the neighborhood in his NOPD unit, his police radio crackling.
Hardy had to hurry, Davis said.
In one of many phone conversations – secretly taped by the FBI – Hardy called Davis again at 10:01 p.m. Davis provided a description of the clothes Groves was wearing and her hairstyle. Hardy said he was on his way.
Kim Groves had less than one hour to live.
On Oct. 12, 1994, the night before her murder, Kim Groves filed a complaint with NOPD’s internal affairs division against Davis and police partner Sammie L. Williams. Groves said she witnessed the “brutal beating” Oct. 11 of Nathan Norwood, 17, according to a complaint by FBI Agent Kathleen A. Adams.
Groves said Davis punched the youth in the stomach and Williams struck him in the head with the butt of his gun, requiring hospitalization, according to the FBI.
Groves said the reason she filed the IAD complaint was because “she feared the same brutality could be inflicted on her son or any other young person,” Agent Adams wrote.
In a statement to NOPD, Norwood said Davis and Williams stopped him Oct. 11 while he using a pay phone outside a store.
Norwood said Davis told him he was looking for the twin that shot a police officer on Tupelo Street on Aug. 27, “and until they find the twin, all twins will suffer.”
In that case, Homicide Det. Michael Mims was shot and wounded in the right hand by Dwyane “Twin” LeBlanc, an 18-year-old drug dealer and murder suspect. LeBlanc then fired at NOPD homicide detective Norbert Zenon who returned fire. LeBlanc escaped on foot and fled to California. He was captured and convicted and is now serving life for murder and attempted murder. (State v. LeBlanc, No. 97-KA-1388, Sept. 23, 1998)
Two months later, Det. Zenon became the lead homicide investigator of the Kim Groves murder.
The FBI’s interest in Officer Davis extended beyond brutality complaints.
From 1993 until federal indictments were issued in December 1994, Davis led a confederacy of corrupt cops and drug dealers under Paul Hardy, whose turf wars fueled the city’s record murder rate in 1994.
Targeted by an FBI undercover operation that began March 14, 1994, officers Davis and Williams would cruise the city’s poorest neighborhoods, warning Hardy and his crew of any efforts by legitimate NOPD cops to stop their drug-trafficking operations and mayhem. Davis concealed his criminal enterprise from incurious NOPD supervisors, saying he was running an off-duty security “detail.” He made time to mix business with pleasure.
Shortly before Groves’ murder, for example, Davis brought drug dealers and thugs into the old 5th District station to ogle gory homicide photographs.
At approximately 9:55 p.m., Oct. 13, 1994, Kim Groves said goodnight to two people on the corner of Alabo and North Villere streets, one block from home and her three children. Dressed in dark clothes, Paul Hardy suddenly walked up, raised a 9mm pistol and shot her once in the left side of the head. She screamed. He fled.
Groves’ children rushed outside and found their mother lying in a pool of blood. Her grandmother and father arrived, soon afterward.
“I found my mother lying in the street, dying from a bullet wound to the head,” Corey Groves told the court. “I cried while calling my mother’s name. I clearly remember seeing both of her eyes rapidly moving from side to side, and then very suddenly they stopped. At that time, I knew she was gone.”
After the murder of his mother, Corey Groves said he fell into a life of drug abuse, prison and dark thoughts. “I didn’t care anymore whether I lived or died,” Groves said. “I desperately wanted to get stopped by an NOPD officer so I could either kill one of them or force one of them to kill me. This is how angry, hurt and confused I was after the murder of my mother.”
He survived with family support.
“I know that I should try to forgive Len Davis and Paul Hardy for what they did to my mother and my family. I have to admit I’m unable to do that. Instead, I have to ask God to please forgive me for not being able to forgive them.”
Len Davis is now on federal Death Row. Hardy is serving life in prison.