On Sunday, June 5, 2016, New Orleans Police officer Natasha Hunter was hit by a driver who was suspected to be intoxicated. Officer Hunter was responding to and investigating a crash on I-10 near the Esplanade Ave. exit. She was on a shoulder of the highway when Chau Thai Nguyen ignored warning lights and flares, and consequently crashed into Officer Hunter’s vehicle while she was inside, according to police reports.
After Nguyen struck Officer Hunter while she was directing traffic due to the previous pile-up that had occurred, she was found “unresponsive” in her vehicle. She was found with very serious brain injuries, according to Police Superintendent Michael Harrison. She was rushed to the hospital along with Nguyen, who apparently smelled of alcohol and was acting intoxicated, and later confessed to the fact that he had been drinking that night.
Today, June 7, 2016, Officer Natasha Hunter passed away as a result of the injuries she had sustained in the tragic accident. She had been a member of the New Orleans Police Department for 12 years, and was a well-respected, loved member of the force, and a loving mother of a 5-year-old daughter. The city of New Orleans mourns her tragic death, and the NOPD will be holding a public prayer vigil in her honor at NOPD headquarters at 715 South Broad St. tomorrow, Wednesday, June 8, 2016.
This is not the first time in recent years that a New Orleans Police Officer has been badly injured or killed while responding to a pre-existing traffic accident. In the past three years alone, four NOPD officers, including Natasha Hunter, have been struck while investigating traffic incidents in New Orleans, three of which have been killed as a result. This has been a growing problem in recent years. A lawyer for the Fraternal Order of Police, Donovan Livaccari, expressed what is on everyone’s mind when he said, “something has got to be done.” Hopefully something will be done so these tragic, avoidable accidents cease to be a problem.