By Kathy Finn
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Two Louisiana sheriff's deputies were killed and two others wounded in a pair of related shootings west of New Orleans on Thursday, and police said they have five people in custody in connection with the incident.
A gunman shot and wounded a St. John Parish deputy while he was directing traffic at about 5 a.m. CDT in an off-site parking lot for the Valero Energy Corp.'s St. Charles refinery, St. John Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre said.
The gunman fled, and officers investigating the incident ended up at a trailer park in LaPlace, about 25 miles west of New Orleans. As they were interviewing two suspects, someone came out of a trailer with an assault weapon and shot dead the two officers, Tregre said.
"Two of my officers were ambushed, I want to say assassinated," he said during a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
Police have not said how the fourth officer involved was wounded.
The slain deputies were identified as Brandon Nielsen, 34, and Jeremy Triche, 27. The wounded deputies were identified as Scott Boyington and Jason Triche. The Triches are related, but Tregre could not say how.
Tregre said the wounded officers remain hospitalized and described the condition of one as "improving." He gave no details of their injuries.
"Today has been one of the hardest days of my life so far," Tregre said. "Law enforcement is a profession where you may take a life, save a life or give your own, and today was one of those days."
The identities of the five suspects, male and female, have not been released. Two of them were injured in the shooting, police said.
State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson, whose department has taken over the investigation, said authorities are confident everyone connected to the incident is in custody.
"The people that were involved in this morning's crimes are in custody right now or in the hospital," Edmonson said, adding that the motive remains unknown.
"I can't give a rhyme or reason," he said.
Edmonson would not provide any details about the weapons or the locations of the shootings, saying only that several weapons were involved and "in excess of 20 gunshots" were fired.
Valero said in a statement that refinery operations were not affected.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Vicki Allen and Xavier Briand)