Two Louisiana sheriff’s deputies were fired and arrested for manslaughter after shooting and killing an unarmed man inside his car, which the Jefferson Parish sheriff said was ‘not warranted’ .
Deputies Isaac Hughes and Johnathan Louis responded to a noise complaint in the early hours of Feb. 16, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto said. Authorities believed the residence was associated with illegal drugs.
There they found Daniel Vallée sitting in a car parked in front of the house.
Lopinto said Vallée, who was also wanted for questioning in separate investigations, refused to comply with officers’ orders to exit the vehicle. At one point, Vallée started the car and officers believed he intended to drive off, the sheriff said. Vallée, whose hands were up, then dropped his hands and banged the horn, which Lopinto said drew fire from the deputies.
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Hughes and Louis both fired multiple shots, Lopinto said.
“My opinion, that honk, whether it scares my deputy or my deputy reacts to the honk, ends up firing his gun,” Lopinto said at a Monday news conference. “That in turn, the second deputy fired his gun in reaction to that shot. These two deputies fired those shots in reaction to that.”
Lopinto said Vallée had refused to follow officers’ instructions for 12 minutes before the shooting: “They begged him. They threatened him…he refused to cooperate.”
Both deputies face manslaughter charges. Lopinto said they surrendered and were remorseful. Lopinto said at Monday’s press conference that Vallée had been “in and out of jail” over the years and “had every chance of complying.”
“There was a force that was certainly warranted at the moment, but it was not a lethal force,” he said.
Vallée’s family members told local media that he suffered from drug addiction, but was not a violent person and did not deserve to die. Vallée had a 12-year-old daughter, NOLA.com reported.
“He’s a struggling drug addict. That doesn’t mean he should have been shot and killed like he was,” his aunt, Tara Phillips, told NOLA.com.
An initial statement released by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office the morning of the shooting said Vallée “escalated his refusal to cooperate by starting the engine of his vehicle.”
Vallee’s family attorney, Glenn McGovern, told WWL-TV that wasn’t reason enough for the deputies to shoot.
“You can’t automatically shoot the car, shoot the occupants of the car if you can get out of the way. It has to be an immediate danger and we know, apparently, from reports that there isn’t was unarmed. So where is the immediate threat?” he said.