HARVEY, La. — A pedestrian walking down a busy commercial strip of a New Orleans suburb in the middle of the afternoon shot a sheriff’s deputy multiple times, killing him, after being stopped by the officer Wednesday, an official said.
Col. John Fortunato, a Jefferson Parish sheriff’s spokesman, identified the officer as David F. Michel Jr., 50.
One suspect was in custody and hospitalized at University Medical Center in New Orleans for minor injuries believed to have been suffered in a struggle with Michel, Fortunato said.
Investigators were still gathering details, Fortunato said, making a public plea for anyone who saw the shooting to come forward. He said, based on witness accounts so far, that Michel approached a pedestrian, a struggle followed, the suspect pulled a gun from his waistband and shot several times, fatally wounding Michel.
“The suspect pulled the weapon and fired several shots, including when the officer was down,” Fortunato said.
Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich, the parish coroner, said Michel was shot three times “straight in the back.” Details on the caliber of the weapon were not released.
The reason the pedestrian was stopped was not immediately available, and it was unclear what prompted the shooting.
Sheriff Newell Normand was out of town but was returning immediately and planned a news conference for 10 p.m.
The suspect was captured after law enforcement agencies flooded the area, using dogs and helicopters.
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.
“The normal operational tour of duty for these guys who work in street crimes is to drive around certain neighborhoods that we know are high-crime areas and make pedestrian stops, and make vehicle stops as well,” Fortunato said.
Michel joined the sheriff’s office in 2007 and was transferred to the street crimes unit in 2015, Fortunato said.
The shooting happened on Manhattan Boulevard near its intersection with Lapalco Boulevard, both heavily traveled thoroughfares in the area known as the West Bank, across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.
Cherokee Green, a mother of two young boys, lives near the scene of the shooting and was in a state of disbelief. She moved to this part of Jefferson Parish from the nearby neighborhood of Algiers to get away from violence. But she said violence has followed her. Recently, a friend of hers was killed shortly after she had gotten off a party bus. And now this has happened.
“It’s too much. It’s overwhelming,” she said, on the verge of tears. “It’s innocent people getting killed. They got sick people in this world who just take someone’s life.”
It was the year’s second shooting of a Jefferson officer.
Another member of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office was shot and wounded in January during a drug raid on a house in the Lower 9th Ward section of New Orleans.
Stephen Arnold was shot five times as he and others were trying to serve a warrant as part of a Drug Enforcement Administration raid on a house. The suspect in the shooting, Jarvis Hardy, has been indicted on eight counts, including attempted murder of a federal officer.