By Kathy Finn
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Louisiana State Police brought first-degree murder charges on Wednesday against two men held in connection with a pair of shootings including an ambush near New Orleans that killed two police officers, police said.
The men, 24-year-old Brian Lyn Smith and 28-year-old Kyle David Joekel, were among seven people charged last Friday with lesser charges over the shootings of sheriff's deputies in LaPlace, Louisiana, earlier this month.
The incident began around 5 a.m. on August 16 when a gunman shot and wounded deputy Michael Scott Boyington, 33, as he directed traffic in a parking lot for a Valero Energy Corp's refinery during a shift change.
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, a third person emerged from a trailer and fatally shot the two officers and wounded another, according to St. John Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre.
The officers killed were Brandon Nielsen, 34, and Jeremy Triche, 27. Jason Triche, 30, was wounded.
The two men who face murder charges in the case also face three counts of attempted first-degree murder. Police have also charged Brittney Keith, 23, with two counts of principal to first-degree murder and three counts of principal to attempted first-degree murder.
The new charges follow nearly a week of investigation by State Police, working with the FBI and local authorities to analyze crime scene evidence.
Authorities said Joekel was wanted in Kansas and Nebraska over threats he was accused of making against law enforcement officers. According to the sheriff's office in Gage County, Nebraska, Joekel threatened an officer and led police on a high-speed chase that ended when his car crashed and he escaped on foot.
He is also wanted in Marshall County, Kansas, allegedly for making threats toward law enforcement officers and escaping on foot after a car chase there, authorities said.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Pravin Char)