A curious dilemma arises from the efforts to explain why police so often end up shooting, if not killing, suicidal people when they are called to help a person in need. In some instances, there is at least an inkling of understanding as to why police ended up shooting the person. In others, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to explain it. So is it better to call the police for help or is it a death sentence?
While the answer may be hard to determine in most places, not so in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. As NOLA.com explains, it’s pretty much a lock that when the cops show up, somebody is going to end up dead.
Family members of a husband and wife who were shot and killed last August by St. John Parish sheriff’s deputies filed a suit in federal court on Thursday against St. John Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre and 14 deputies, alleging wrongful death. The suit is the second wrongful death and excessive force suit to be filed against Tregre in the past two weeks.
On Aug. 14, the son of Barbara Lassere, a 60-year-old woman who was shot and killed by a St. John Parish sheriff’s deputy in January after she failed to comply with a traffic stop, filed a wrongful death suit against Tregre and the Sheriff’s Office for $5 million in damages.
A busy week at the court clerk’s office. In the first case, a slew of deputies arrived in response to a mother’s call that her daughter, Deborah Prine, was suicidal. The daughter, according to the complaint, had a rifle slung on her back, but it was never taken down and remained pointed toward the sky. So what, the slew of deputies decided as the suicidal woman failed to comply fast enough with the command to drop the rifle.
Seeing his wife fall to the ground, Robert Prine became hysterical and ran to her. Bad move in St. John Parish.
“In response to witnessing his wife being shot Robert Prine became hysterical. As he ran towards his wife’s body screaming and unarmed he was shot and killed by the defendants Dubus, [Deputy Mark] Ceravalo and Powell.
“At no time did Robert Prine ever threaten any of the defendant deputies with any weapon.
Watching all this was Deborah’s mother, Patricia Doyle, who had called the police for help in the first place, with the couple’s two little girls within earshot of the gunshot. Just another day in St. John Parish, kids.
In the second suit, 60-year-old Barbara Lassere’s son is suing for the death of his mother.
In the early morning hours of January 24, Barbara Lassere was pulled over for a headlight-related traffic violation near the intersection of Elm and West 5th streets in LaPlace, according to Louisiana State Police spokeswoman Melissa Matey, who held a news conference at the scene shortly after Lassere’s death.
Matey said Lassere refused to get out of her car when she was stopped and instead brandished a revolver before fleeing the scene in her vehicle. The deputy who stopped Lassere then engaged in a slow-speed chase, following Lassere to a nearby home at West 2nd and Pine streets. Police said Lassere again refused to get out of the car and instead fired a shot at the deputy, who returned fire and hit her in the chest, killing her.
Except Lassere had no gun, never had a gun, and had nothing whatsoever to do with guns. Instead, the son alleges:
“Back-up was called and numerous other employees of the St. John the Baptist Parish sheriff arrived, with multiple cars, canines and riot gear,” the lawsuit reads. “Surrounded by flashing lights, guns and dogs, Ms. Lassere became increasingly confused and frightened. Ms. Lassere attempted to respond to numerous conflicting and shouted demands, putting her hands on the steering wheel, outside the driver’s side window and up in the air in front of her. She was shot without provocation by one or more unknown sheriff’s deputies as she sat in her car, and died on the scene.”
Like I said, this is a very tough place to live, St. John Parish. In other legal news coming out of St. John Parish, the former Chief Deputy filed suit as well:
The former chief deputy of the St. John the Baptist Parish sheriff’s office filed a federal suit on Wednesday saying that Sheriff Mike Tregre installed video cameras in interview rooms and secretly recorded conversations between criminal suspects and their attorneys.
Chief Deputy Tregg Wilson, who served as Tregre’s second-in-command before his June termination, says in the lawsuit he was fired in retaliation after confronting Tregre about the recordings.
While some might find this an outrageous affront to the constitutional rights of defendants in St. John Parish, think it through. It only applies to the ones who survived arrest, and shouldn’t they be seriously thankful the deputies didn’t just kill them in the first place? Be thankful to live in St. John Parish. Too many don’t.