Ex-city worker’s file sheds new light on body found in impound lot

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — We have new details about the discipline handed down by police after the body of a man sat unnoticed at the Memphis impound lot for 49 days.

Just last week the police director announced several officers were suspended or demoted, and one impound lot worker was fired, because of mistakes.

We looked at the personnel files, but only one contained any mention of the impound lot case — and that was the file of the man who ultimately lost his job.

When the White Ford Econoline Van was towed to the Memphis impound lot in December 2017, lot worker John Powell was assigned to process it for intake. The vehicle was being held for investigators after a shooting.

According to Powell’s personnel file, he took several photographs of the vehicle, including one of a cell phone that should have been tagged in a property room, but never was.

It placed Powell in violation of the inventory and processing procedure, mistakes that Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings admitted to recently.

At his disciplinary hearing, Powell had a chance to explain what happened.

He said the doors on the van were locked. The drivers-side door was the only one open, so he peered where the property was in the back to take pictures.

But what Powell apparently never saw was the body of Bardo Perez Hernandez.

Powell said in the hearing, “If I saw the body, I would have definitely gotten my Lieutenant.”

He also said he knew he should have called uniform officers to the lot to tag the cell phones that were in the van.

But he said, “I thought I did a thorough job. I took pictures on all sides. It had a lot of junk.”

Powell did not recall opening the back or side doors of the van to conduct his inventory, something he would normally do.

It wasn’t Powell’s first time in trouble at the lot. In 2013 he was reprimanded for improperly placing a vehicle, and in 2013 he was given a five-day suspension after porn was found on his work computer.

Missing the body of Bardo Hernandez ended his employment with MPD.

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