HARVEY, La. (AP) — A 19-year-old walking down a busy commercial strip of a New Orleans suburb Wednesday in the middle of the afternoon shot and killed a deputy after the officer tried to search him, the sheriff said Wednesday, labelling the shooting "a cold-blooded murder."
In a late night news conference, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand described the deadly shooting that swiftly unfolded after Detective David F. Michel Jr., 50, tried to search Jerman Neveaux.
The sheriff said the officer had noticed Neveaux walking behind another person who appeared to be nervous, so he pulled over. Michel approached Neveaux and placed him up against the police vehicle so he could search him, Normand said. But Neveaux flipped around, "went chest to chest" with the officer, pulled out a gun and — reaching over Michel's shoulder — shot him in the back.
"As Detective Michel fell to the ground, he fired two more shots at point-blank range into the back of Detective Michel," Normand said.
The officer was able to get on the radio and say he'd been shot, Normand said.
As Michel was brought to a hospital in New Orleans where he later died, officers flooded the area, using dogs and helicopters to search for the suspect. Normand said police were able to find the suspect, who was going through the backyards of houses in the nearby area.
Geralisha Henderson lived in one of those houses. She said she went to her back door Wednesday to make sure it was locked after police combing her street said they were searching for a suspect.
When she went to the back door, she saw what appeared to be a young man dressed in jeans and T-shirt hiding in the back of the yard. Frightened, she went to the street and waved for a police officer to come. When she went to the back door to peek outside again, she said the suspect was much closer to the house. The suspect saw her and asked to be let in, she said.
"He was telling me 'Open the door, let me in,'" she said. "He looked scared."
She said she did not see a gun. At that the point, several officers rushed in and detained him in the backyard. Henderson's mother, Alicia, said an officer later came back to the house and told her the man was the suspect they were looking for.
Normand said five witnesses identified Neveaux as the shooter, and authorities found the gun on him and have been able to match it forensically to the shooting. A spokesman for the sheriff's office, John Fortunato, said he has been arrested on charges of first degree murder and assault.
The suspect admitted shooting the officer and said he was on probation for another offense and didn't want the officer to find the gun and arrest him, Normand said.
The sheriff also said his office is investigating a video that was brought to their attention by a local media outlet that shows Neveaux's arrest. Normand, who said he saw the video minutes before the news conference, said it shows Neveaux "...being struck by our officers while attempting to gain control of Neveaux." He said Neveaux was still armed at that time.
Neveaux, who was taken to the hospital for treatment after his arrest, had an orbital fracture and scrapes and cuts, Normand said.
As news got out about Michel's death, people began to lay flowers at a makeshift memorial where the shooting happened. One of them was MonaLisa Urbina, 47, who brought flowers and a stuffed animal.
She said she knew Michel, who lived with his family in the same neighborhood as her. She said she first got to know him when he found her two boys riding their bikes instead of being in school.
"He scolded them. He told them not to do it again. And he put fear in them. They never did it again," she said. "He treated them like family. I tell you, everybody's lost an angel."
Deputy Chief Craig Taffaro, who commands the parish's operations division, said Michel was a cheerful man who loved his job.
"Obviously, today is the most difficult time," Taffaro said. The deputy chief said he knew Michel personally. "He was a great guy. He was well-liked. It was quite obvious at the hospital how many friends he had."
He said Michel's father was en route to New Orleans. "I spoke with his dad," Taffaro said, "And he said, 'As difficult as this is, he's doing what he loved to do.' I guess that sums it up."
Michel was assigned to the street crimes unit, which targets drug sales and criminal activity in 17 high-crime areas around the parish, Taffaro said. Michel was in a black unmarked car and dressed in plain clothes with sheriff markings.
Michel joined the sheriff's office in 2007 and was transferred to the street crimes unit in 2015, Fortunato said.
It was the year's second shooting of a Jefferson officer.
Another member of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, Stephen Arnold, was shot and wounded in January during a drug raid on a house in the Lower 9th Ward section of New Orleans.
Associated Press reporters Kevin McGill and Chevel Johnson in New Orleans contributed to this story.
This story has been corrected to show that Michel's age is 50.