Fortunato. The name alone has been synonymous with law enforcement.
The son of Frank Fortunato, Jr and Rose Catalano, John was born at Baptist Hospital on May 10, 1951. His father was a member of the New Orleans Police Department for more than 30 years. His mother, Ms. Rose known in the neighborhood as “the Red Cross” for helping everyone, was a stay-at-home mom who helped out at the family grocery, Catalano’s Meat Market. In the early 70s, the family moved from Washington Avenue to Metairie Lawn in Old Metairie.
While in high school, Johnny began his passion for law enforcement while working at the auto pound for the New Orleans Police Department. Upon graduation from Redemptorist High School in 1970, Johnny pursued his interest in the U.S. military. He joined the Louisiana Air National Guard, attended the U. S. Air Force Boot Camp at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX, and went on to Technical School Training at Chanute AFB in Rantoul, IL.
After successfully completing tech training, Johnny continued his military career at Belle Chasse Naval Air Station.
Johnny's father, three uncles, and three of his cousins were all career law enforcement officers with the NOPD.
Another cousin is a retired U.S. Customs Agent who currently remains in law enforcement. Clearly, Johnny would carry on the family legacy in law enforcement, and so in September of 1971, he applied to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office under the Cadet program working for Sheriff Alwynn Cronvich while fulfilling his military commitment. Johnny worked full-time in the Criminal Records Division while attending Loyola University at night through an educational assistance program available to law enforcement.
In early 1972, Fortunato entered the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office Training Academy. A member of Recruit Class #8, he graduated and began his assignment with the First District Patrol Division. In 1974, Fortunato was promoted to detective, where he investigated burglaries in the Crimes Against Property Division.
In the fall of 1977, while responding to a stolen property complaint, Detective Fortunato was shot and seriously wounded in the line of duty. The Purple Heart on his uniform serves as a persistent memory of that day in October. One year later, under newly-elected Sheriff Harry Lee, Fortunato was promoted to Sergeant and named Commander of the Community Relations/Crime Prevention Unit.
In 1986, he was promoted again, and as Lieutenant was entrusted to serve as the department's Public Information Officer, a position he has held for over 30 years. In 2000, Fortunato was promoted to Colonel, the rank he holds today.
Fortunato was a close ally of Sheriff Lee. He was one of a handful of family members and department top brass at the Sheriff's bedside when he died at 10:44 a.m. on October 1, 2007. Fortunato fulfilled one of Harry Lee's final requests which was for John to personally handle the Sheriff's memorial service on behalf of the Lee family.
A career lawman, Fortunato stepped down from the Sheriff’s Office earlier this year to pursue his lifelong dream of leading Jefferson Parish’s top crimefighting team as Sheriff. John Fortunato has earned the reputation of being a strong, courageous policeman who remains level-headed and even-keeled in times of crisis. His father instilled in him one golden rule: “treat others the way you would want to be treated.” With that spirit, John Fortunato became a familiar face at JPSO managed crime scenes talking to everyone around and serving as a trusted, straight shooter to the media.
John is married to former WDSU news anchor Kriss Fairbairn. Their son Nicholas is a member of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. John also has an older son, John Jr., a daughter, Tiffany, and seven grandchildren.
On Thursday, October 19, 2017 before a large crowd of friends, family and supporters John Fortunato officially announced his candidacy for Sheriff.