Court 2-1 for on-duty cop who shot up his car

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A state appeal court has overturned the dismissal of a policeman who has pleaded "no contest" to criminal

mischief charges accusing him of getting drunk and shooting up his personal car while on duty in December 2009.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled last week that the department's internal investigation took too long, violating Patrick

O'Hern's rights. The Times-Picayune reported.

The investigation began in March 2010. It should have been finished by Feb. 10, 2010, Wednesday's 2-1 ruling said.

The city can appeal. If it loses, O'Hern would be entitled to back pay since Oct. 27, 2010, when he was fired.

He wouldn't necessarily get back on the force — the department could investigate whether the plea indicates unfitness for

duty.

The ruling in O'Hern's case is the latest to

find fault with NOPD's policy of waiting to start administrative

investigations

into officers' actions until related criminal probes have been

completed, sometimes after time limits set forth in the state

law known as the "Police Officers Bill of Rights."

According to court records, O'Hern abandoned

his patrol assignment on Dec. 12, 2009, drove his personal car to the

top floor

of the Hilton New Orleans Riverside parking garage. There, he

drank whiskey; swallowed a dozen or so tablets of a drug used

to treat epilepsy; and fired his police-issued gun more than 20

times, shooting through his car's roof and windshield.

Police responded, thinking O'Hern was in a gunfight with criminals.

He was taken to a hospital, where he said he had tried to commit suicide. Tests revealed a blood-alcohol level of .105; .08

is considered proof of intoxication in Louisiana.