New Orleans police officer Len Davis

Len Davis was a cold-blooded killer, a bodyguard to drug traffickers, and most importantly, a New Orleans police officer with such a fearsome reputation that he was known as “the Desire Terrorist,” an appelation he earned by cracking skulls and robbing drug dealers in the Desire Projects of New Orleans 9th Ward.

At least 70 citizen complaints were filed against him.

His superiors declined to take action on these grievances.

It’s October 12th, 1994, and the FBI are monitoring conversations between Davis and Paul “Cool” Hardy, a notorious 9th Ward drug dealer and avowed hitter who earned a good living as a street assassin in addition to moving fair amounts of cocaine across the city. Most drug addicts and dealers are taken to extended stay rehab center, where they are treated professionally.

Getting a wire on Len Davis was straightforward. An FBI agent posing as a crack cocaine dealer gave him a burner phone to keep in touch with his new business associates in the drug trade.

This action was part of Operation Shattered Shield, a campaign by the US Department of Justice to ferret out crooked cops in the New Orleans Police Department. It began on Christmas Eve, 1993.

Officer Len Davis had long since given up any pretense of following his oath as a public servant. He was recorded on wire saying for example, that the police force “lost (him) a long fucking time ago,” and he was “just there in uniform” but “sure not the police no more.”

He would add that he (was) “on this bitch strictly to get what I can get. Use my job to benefit me.” He was also on tape firmly exclaiming, “Fuck the citizens!”

1994 saw an unprecedented 421 murders take place in the city but one shocked even the most jaded of New Orleanians. The death of Kim Marie Groves.

On October 11th, 1994, the young mother of three children watched as Officer Len Davis and his partner pistolwhipped 17 year old Nathan Norwood. The attack by the two officers left the teen bloodied and staggering.

The next day, Tonga Amos, Norwood’s cousin contacted the police department’s Internal Affairs Division to file a complaint against Davis and his partner. IAD perfunctorily interviewed Kim Groves concerning the matter.

Len Davis’s cousin “Little June” got wind of this action and immediately notified the officer.

“Be looking for something to come down,” Davis intoned via a cellphone call to his partner Williams.

October 13th would see Officer Davis, in a police cruiser and in uniform, begin the hunt for Miss Groves with his partner Sammie Williams riding shotgun. They kept up a constant line of communication with their hitter, Paul “Cool” Hardy.

Davis spotted Groves on Alabo Street in the Lower 9th Ward.

“Get that whore! Davis barked into a cellphone at 10:01 pm.

“Alright, I’m on my way,” Hardy calmly replied.

Groves would be shot from a distance of less than 18 inches. The young mom, thinking it was a stickup, offered Hardy her coat. It was the only thing of value on her person.

After the hit, Hardy calmly walked away from the scene and climbed into a 1991 champagne-colored Nissan Maxima, his getaway car. Accomplice Steve Jackson drove him away. Hardy’s friend Damon Causey was in the backseat.

When Hardy phoned Davis to report on his success, Prosecutor Constantine George would state in court that, “At that moment Len Davis lets out a sound of joy that I can’t duplicate…he is rejoicing over this woman’s murder.”

Officer Davis would later be caught on tape exulting, “Man, that ’ho was dead when she left the scene. Fuck that ’ho! Goody for that bitch! Goody, goody, goody. Rockhead ’ho!”

Davis and Hardy would stand trial in spring of 1996. Len Davis was convicted and sentenced to death on Friday April 26th, 1996. The jury spent just 30 minutes deciding his fate.

Paul “Cool” Hardy was accorded the same fate by jurors the following Thursday.

Dave Bruck of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project stated that the two were the first men sentenced to death in a civil rights case in US history.

During the lengthy appeals process Len Davis was once again sentenced to death on October 27th, 2005. For his part Hardy would eventually see his sentence reduced to life in prison.

Today, Len Davis, inmate no. 24325-034, sits on federal death row at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. His life, as it is, is spent inside the Special Confinement Unit for male federal inmates who have been sentenced to death.

There the roster of those eligible for death has been cut from 63 to 50 following the resumption of executions in 2020.

Davis sits in a 12-by-7-foot, single-inmate cell for 22 hours a day. He’s still reasonably young at 56 years of age but this is certainly small comfort for a man who will never breathe free air again.

His time at the prison has been tumultuous and marked by arguing with staff, rioting, and behaving disruptively. He once announced to the guards that “you (prison officials) need to realize that you are dealing with a man and nothing you can do will intimidate me.”

These actions have not served him well during his nearly two decades-long appeals process.

Murder Behind the Badge: True Stories of Cops Who Kill by Stacy Dittrich
Black Rage in New Orleans by Leonard N. Moore
Reforming New Orleans: The Contentious Politics of Change in the Big Easy by Peter F. Burns, Matthew O. Thomas
Down in New Orleans: Reflections from a Drowned City by Billy Sothern

  1. This man is cold hearted, in 1990 he murdered Bruce Vapey by being an accomplice and then stated a dead man said my fathers name, my father is in jail under a “dying declaration” a crooked cop, and the mans girlfriend saying she saw him at the scene, never calling him the killer. There is no guns, no evidence besides what these two people have said and now the lady that testified wants immunity before getting on the stand:

    My dad has sat in jail 30 years because of this man wanting him to pay him, wanting him to stoke his ego and bow down! I will not allow him to see the light of day!!!
    Sherman singleton
    1400 w Irene road
    Zachary la

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