Man charged with vehicular homicide in NOPD dispatcher’s death

Andrew Merchant
Andrew Merchant

A Metairie man, allegedly drunk when he drove the wrong way on an Interstate highway and crashed head-on into a New Orleans Police Department dispatcher, was charged with vehicular homicide Friday by the District Attorney’s Office.

Andrew Merchant, 28, has been held at Orleans Parish Prison on a $50,000 bond since his rearrest on the vehicular homicide charge Sept. 20. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.

Paulette Brown, 51, had worked as an NOPD dispatcher for more than three decades. She lived in New Orleans East and was driving to work on Interstate 610 around 10:30 p.m. Sept. 7.

Merchant, who police say had a blood-alcohol content three times the legal limit for driving, drove his 2013 Jeep Wrangler the wrong way onto the highway. He hit Brown’s car head-on and struck at least one other vehicle.

Brown was rushed to the hospital with broken bones and internal injuries. She was put on life support and died a few days later.

Merchant, meanwhile, was slurring his speech and his eyes were red when police arrived, according to court documents. A blood sample revealed his blood-alcohol content to be 0.25 percent, more than triple the legal limit for driving of 0.08.

He originally was booked with DWI, reckless driving and other traffic offenses and was released on a $7,000 bond. He was rebooked with the vehicular homicide charge when the blood-alcohol results showed he was legally intoxicated.