LAPLACE, La. (AP) — Two sheriff's deputies in Louisiana were shot to death and two others were injured in an early-morning shootout west of New Orleans, authorities said Thursday.
Five people — both male and female — are in custody, and two of them are hospitalized, authorities said. They said both wounded deputies and both wounded suspects are expected to survive.
"I had two officers ambushed — I even want to say assassinated," St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Michael Tregre said at an afternoon news conference.
Police would not identify the suspects, say when they might do so, or give any details about the number of weapons used. No charges had been filed against them as of late Thursday afternoon.
However, the DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Office said the suspects involved had been under surveillance two months ago, according to The Shreveport Times reported (http://bit.ly/N3DfrN).
DeSoto sheriff's Lt. Robert Davidson told the newspaper that he received a call from the FBI earlier Thursday confirming the connection with those in custody.
The DeSoto sheriff's office reportedly stationed detectives at an RV trailer park north of Mansfield after three men and two women were seen getting in and out of vehicles with assault weapons, the newspaper reported. Several of the individuals had also been on "watch lists" in other states, and one was reportedly wanted in Gage County, Nebraska for making "terroristic threats" during a bar incident last year.
DeSoto Parish Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle told The Associated Press that state police picked up their file on the alleged suspects Thursday "to see if they're the same people we were watching."
"We have reason to believe they're the suspects but that still has to be verified with birthdates and other data," he said.
Earlier Thursday, a tearful Tregre said that the incident started about 5:30 a.m., when a gunman opened fire for unknown reasons on a deputy working an off-duty job along a highway that connects U.S. Highway 61 with the busy industrial corridor along the Mississippi River. That deputy was wounded.
Tregre said someone called deputies with a description of a car fleeing the scene, and officers tracked it to a nearby mobile home park.
When officers found the car, they handcuffed a suspect outside a mobile home, then knocked on its door. Tregre said someone with a dog answered.
"Another person exited that trailer with an assault weapon and ambushed my two officers," Tregre said. Two deputies were killed and a third was wounded.
Two suspects were wounded in the shootout before officers subdued them, Tregre said.
The slain deputies were identified as Brandon Nielsen, 34, and Jeremy Triche, 27. The wounded officers are Jason Triche, 30, and Michael Boyington, 33, identified as the first one shot. They were being treated at area hospitals but the extent of their injuries was not known.
The Triches were related, Tregre said, though he did not know how. It remained unclear where Jason Triche was shot.
Tregre said Nielsen is survived by his wife and five children, and Jeremy Triche by his wife and 2-year-old son.
"There were more than 20 gunshots," said Col. Mike Edmonson, head of Louisiana State Police, which investigates shootings in which other Louisiana law-enforcement agencies are involved.
The initial shooting occurred at a parking lot off Louisiana Highway 3217 used by workers in the industrial area about 20 miles west of New Orleans, near the line between St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes. A massive grain port also is nearby. There is heavy traffic in the area as shifts change at plants and port facilities.
Bill Day, spokesman for Valero Energy Corp., said one of the deputies was providing security for the off-site parking lot used by contractors working at the Valero St. Charles Refinery.
Day said operations at the refinery had not been affected. Valero employees were being asked to report to work as normal, unless they park at the lot where the incident took place.
Some other plants in the area were letting non-essential workers in the area leave for the day or were telling them not to report for work as the search continued.
Police officers from throughout metro New Orleans rushed to the scene after the shootings in anticipation of a possible manhunt.
Tregre said an active search for suspects was no longer under way.
Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered the state flags flown at half-staff over the state Capitol and all public buildings and institutions until sunset Friday. The move, described as "an expression of respect for the four sheriff's deputies," was effective immediately, the governor's order said.