NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two Louisiana sheriff’s deputies face manslaughter charges in connection with the shooting death of an unarmed man during a tense confrontation near New Orleans last week, a use of deadly force that the sheriff said was unjustified.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto told news outlets Sunday that he believes Deputies Isaac Hughes, 29, and Johnathan Louis, 35, feared for their lives when they fired at Daniel Vallee as he sat in an SUV on Feb. 16. But, he said, investigators determined the two should face manslaughter charges. He said the two cooperated in the investigation, turned themselves in and were jailed. Both were fired from the sheriff’s department.
Lopinto said the two were among officers responding to a complaint about noise outside a known crack house in the Marrero community when they encountered Vallee sitting in the SUV. Vallee repeatedly refused to exit the car.
“They asked him. They begged him. They threatened him, trying to get him to come out,” Lopinto told reporters Sunday night.
Lopinto said Vallee turned off the vehicle’s engine at one point as officers tried to get him to get out of the car. When Vallee turned the engine back on, “numerous of my deputies drew their weapons at that point in time.”
One of the deputies was in front of the vehicle and another was to the side when Vallee turned the engine on. Lopinto said the gunfire began just after Vallee dropped his hands onto the wheel, striking and sounding the horn.
Lopinto said one deputy responded to the sound of the horn with gunfire. “In turn, the second deputy fired his weapon responding to that gunfire,” Lopinto said.
The decision to file charges came after reviews of body camera video and interviews with all of the deputies involved.
“Unfortunately, the use of force in this situation was not justified. As much as I would love to be able to defend them,” Lopinto said.
The sheriff’s office said Hughes had been employed by Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office since 2013; Louis, since 2020.