Prosecutors rule out charging deputies in deadly shooting

AP News
|
Posted: May 06, 2016 5:39 PM
Prosecutors rule out charging deputies in deadly shooting

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Two sheriff's deputies were acting in self-defense when one of them shot and killed a mentally ill man during a violent "onslaught" in his Louisiana home last year, prosecutors said Friday as they ruled out any criminal charges against the deputies.

Michael Noel, 32, tried to stab a St. Martin Parish sheriff's deputy with an unsecured handcuff and struck another deputy who was trapped against a door when he shot and killed Noel, Assistant District Attorney Chester Cedars wrote in a 20-page memo based on evidence presented by State Police investigators.

Noel resisted deputies' efforts to take him into protective custody at his St. Martinville home and drive him to a hospital on the evening of Dec. 21, police said. St. Martinville is about 60 miles southwest of Baton Rouge.

Noel's "aggressive advances" toward the deputies escalated the confrontation to "the lethal force level," State Police investigators concluded in a 35-page report.

Cedars, the chief prosecutor in St. Martin Parish, said in his memo that deputies shocked Noel with a Taser three times before the shooting, but the jolts "inexplicably" had no effect on him.

"His shooting was not the product of any evil or malicious intent, but rather, was a reasonable reaction to an extraordinarily intense and volatile situation which was brought on, solely and exclusively, by Michael's conduct," wrote Cedars, who provided his report to The Associated Press.

In March, Noel's relatives sued St. Martin Parish Sheriff Ronald Theriot and the two deputies involved in the deadly encounter. Their suit claims Noel's shooting was unprovoked and the result of poor training and supervision by the sheriff's office.

Noel's mother, Barbara Noel, and aunt, Sable Alex, have said he wasn't armed and wasn't a threat to the deputies.

Barbara Noel said she is "very furious" that nobody will be charged over her son's death. She said she witnessed the deadly confrontation in the living room of her home and can't understand how investigators can blame her son.

"I'm a live eyewitness. They are lying. They are lying, sir. Don't believe them," she said Friday during a telephone interview.

Noel said prosecutors didn't inform her of their decision before releasing the memo outlining their conclusions.

Cedars' memo says Michael Noel had a handcuff secured on his right wrist and tried to stab Deputy Dylan Laneaux with the other open, unsecured handcuff. Noel also grasped at the left side of Laneaux's duty belt, which contained his service revolver, Cedars said.

"Fortunately, Michael was unable to retrieve the gun from the holster because of its multilevel retention features," he wrote.

Noel then charged at Sgt. Pittard Chapman and struck him, chipping one of his teeth, during a brief struggle moments before the shooting, the memo says.

"As Michael started to re-engage, Sgt. Chapman, finding himself trapped at the front door of the residence, discharged his service revolver, striking Michael in the left forearm and the center of his chest," Cedars wrote, adding that Chapman "apparently could not escape Michael's onslaught."

Chapman has remained on administrative leave since the shooting, according to his attorney, Pat Magee. The shooting left Chapman "distraught" over Noel's death, Magee said.

"However, he had no other alternative but to use deadly force in this instance," he added.

Michael Noel had paranoid schizophrenia and had stopped taking his medication roughly three months before the shooting, his mother told police. She told the AP in January that her son, at 5-foot-6 and roughly 130 pounds, couldn't have overpowered the two deputies.

The day of the shooting marked the fourth time in less than eight months that Barbara Noel had obtained an order for deputies to take her son into protective custody so he could get treatment. The orders say he had been suicidal, hallucinating, hearing voices and talking to imaginary people.

On Dec. 14, a week before the shooting, a deputy responded to a "mental complaint" at the Noel family's home and spoke to Michael, who said he "speaks to Jesus Christ," an incident report says. The report says the matter was referred to the sheriff's Crisis Intervention Team.

The family's lawsuit claims it was "reasonably foreseeable" that the deadly confrontation would occur given what happened on Dec. 14.

Noel's relatives have said they believe race was a factor in the confrontation. Noel was black and both deputies are white, they said.

The races of the deputies aren't included in Cedars' report, but he said both appear to be white.

"It's not in the report because it's irrelevant. That was simply not a factor," he said.

Neither deputy was wearing a body camera, but camera footage from Chapman's vehicle captured "significant aspects of this incident," Cedars wrote.

Chapman asserted his right to remain silent when State Police investigators tried to question him, according to Cedars. Magee, Chapman's attorney, said authorities did a "tremendous job" in investigating the case.

"They came up with the correct result without my client's statement," he said.