Missing guns went unnoticed at BRPD for years until children found them; former cop arrested for taking evidence
CENTRAL – A former Baton Rouge Police officer was arrested Monday after a box of guns and loaded magazines were found on a curb and traced back to the officer.
Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran told the WBRZ Investigative Unit Monday that former BRPD officer Benjamin Zeringue put the guns, which had been seized as evidence in BRPD cases, in the trash.
Corcoran said children found the three semi-automatic weapons with full 30-round magazines on April 16.
Baton Rouge Police Deputy Chief Myron Daniels said the weapons were traced back to traffic stops. Daniels said it appeared Zeringue wrote reports suggesting the guns were placed in evidence but, in reality, were not.
"According to the reporting systems, those firearms were dropped into evidence, which we found was inaccurate," Daniels said.
Arrest documents said the guns were seized in three separate traffic stops in April 2018, May 2018 and February 2019. Records showed the Zeringue turned in a small amount of marijuana seized during one of the stops but never put the guns with the rest of the evidence.
After launching an investigation, the department realized the guns were missing on April 20, 2022, days after the weapons were discovered by children.
Zeringue was to be booked into jail Monday afternoon on three counts each of malfeasance in office, injuring public records and theft of firearms.
"No one is above the law here. He will be held accountable," Corcoran said.
Zeringue was released on an $18,000 bond, the sheriff's office said Tuesday morning.
The chief said the situation could have unfolded much differently: "Luckily these kids were good kids [who found the guns]. They didn't play with them. They brought them home and gave them to their parents. Their parents, upon seeing what they were, contacted us immediately and we went out," the chief said.
Zeringue was a Baton Rouge Police officer from November 2016 to June 2020.
After working for Baton Rouge Police, Zeringue worked for West Feliciana Sheriff's Office until joining the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office, where he worked from December 2021 to April 2022.
The Baton Rouge Police Department issued the following statement Tuesday:
In 2020, administrative investigative efforts determined that Benjamin Zeringue violated BRPD policy and
procedure. Zeringue was disciplined accordingly and subsequently resigned.
In April 2022, the Central Police Department notified BRPD of an investigation where three handguns were
found by several kids in a trash pile. Fortunately, the kids gave the guns to a concerned parent who notified
law enforcement. Preliminary investigative efforts determined that Zeringue was associated with the address.
A criminal investigation was immediately initiated by BRPD Detectives. Subsequent to the investigation,
probable cause was established to charge Zeringue with (3) counts of Injuring Public Record, (3) counts of
Malfeasance in Office and (3) counts of Theft of a Firearm. The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s
Office was notified of the investigation, and a warrant was issued for Zeringue’s arrest. On June 6, 2022,
Zeringue turned himself in and was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. The criminal investigation
into the conduct of Zeringue remains ongoing.
In 2021, the Baton Rouge Police Department began an audit and review related to evidence policies and
procedures. This review determined several areas of improvement, including audit accountability, supervisory
accountability, enhanced training, as well as software and technology upgrades to monitor and assist with
accountability and evidence collection. As the audit and review remains ongoing, the department continues
to make the necessary policy improvements.
The Baton Rouge Police Department will continue to be diligent in improving our policies and procedures and
will continue to hold those accountable who fail to follow BRPD procedures and training. Zeringue’s actions do
not reflect those of the Baton Rouge Police Department.
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