Coroner: Self-inflicted shot killed man in police gunfight

AP News
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Posted: Aug 23, 2016 6:16 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A car theft suspect who died after exchanging gunfire with police Sunday apparently killed himself after being wounded, the New Orleans coroner said Tuesday.

Bernie Porche, 37, suffered two "survivable" gunshot wounds, according to an emailed news release from the coroner, Dr. Jeffrey Rouse. A third, fatal gunshot to the head appears to be self-inflicted, the release said.

Rouse said the preliminary finding of suicide was based on a Tuesday autopsy observed by representatives of the FBI, the city's independent police monitor and the monitor tracking police compliance with federal court-ordered reforms.

The observers also reviewed dashcam video showing Porche firing at police, police returning fire and Porche falling, Rouse said. Porche is then seen moving his arm and "another shot occurs."

On Monday, police Chief Michael Harrison said the shooting happened after a stolen car crashed while being pursued by a state trooper. Three men got out and opened fire at the trooper as they fled. Another trooper chased a suspect into an alley, Harrison said, where the suspect shot the trooper in the elbow. Law enforcement officers tracked down the suspect, who opened fire and died after being struck when multiple officers returned fire, Harrison said.

Police spokesman Tyler Gamble said Tuesday that two city police officers, both white, fired at Porche, a black man. It remained unclear whose bullets struck him.

Rouse said Porche had three gunshot wounds. One passed through both legs, and another started in his back and ended in his left arm. "Neither of these wounds traversed major blood vessels and were potentially survivable," the release said.

The wound to the head "showed evidence of soot deposition on the skin with searing around the edges and soot on the underlying bone. This pattern occurs when a bullet is fired with a muzzle in contact with skin."

Dashcam video, which has not yet been released publicly, was reviewed before the autopsy, the release said.

"On this video, Mr. Porche fired a weapon at officers as he ran," Rouse's news release said. "Officers return fire from a distance, and Mr. Porche falls to the ground. Then the shooting ceases. After a brief period of being motionless, Mr. Porche then moves his arm, and another shot occurs in close proximity to his head, while officers remain at a distance."