A former Louisiana police officer has been arrested after a box of firearms and loaded magazines that were eventually traced to him were found by three children, authorities said.
Benjamin Zeringue, formerly of the Baton Rouge Police Department, turned himself in to authorities Monday and is accused of dumping the weapons into a trash pile. He was booked into jail on suspicion of 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," Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran said during a Tuesday news conference. "We are lucky this did not end in tragedy and we’re thankful that those kids who found the guns did not shoot themselves or others."
The children found three semi-automatic weapons with full 30-round magazines on April 16. They gave the guns to a parent, who notified the police.
The weapons were traced to traffic stops and Zeringue falsely wrote in reports that they were placed in evidence, Baton Rouge Police Deputy Chief Myron Daniels told reporters. Arrest documents obtained by WBRZ-TV said the guns were seized during three separate stops in April 2018, May 2018 and February 2019.
Zeringue turned in a small amount of marijuana from one of the stops but never placed the gun seized into evidence, authorities said.
Daniels said Zeringue had previously been involved in incidents where evidence was not properly booked.
"He was actually disciplined for it and within days of him completing his discipline, he resigned from the police department after being notified that there would be additional oversight into his behavior," he said.
Zeringue was employed with the police department as a uniformed patrol officer from November 2016 to June 2020, authorities said. 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, according to the news outlet.