Sunday, September 24

Louisiana deputies Isaac Hughes and Johnathan Louis charged with manslaughter in fatal shooting of Daniel Vallee

At one point, Vallee started the SUV, causing several deputies to pull their guns, afraid he might hit them, the sheriff said.

Then, around 2:30 am, Vallee dropped his hands, hitting and honking the horn, Lopinto said.

One deputy fired. Then another. Just a few feet away, each shot at Vallee repeatedly.

On Monday, Lopinto announced he had determined the two deputies who shot at Vallee — Isaac Hughes, 29, and Johnathan Louis, 35 — were not justified in using deadly force. They have been fired and were arrested Monday; each faces one count of manslaughter.

The public defender’s office, which represents both Hughes and Louis, did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post early Wednesday. Hughes had worked for the sheriff’s office since 2013, while Louis had been there since 2020.

Family members told that Vallee had fought drug addiction for years and often committed property crimes to pay for his habit. But, they said, he wasn’t violent.

“He’s a struggling addict. That does n’t mean he should have been shot and killed in the manner that he was, ”his aunt, Tara Phillips, told the New Orleans news organization. “…None of this is sitting right with me.”

Around 2:15 am on Feb. 16, five deputies went to check out a noise complaint from a resident who lived next door to the drug house, Lopinto said at the news conference.

“This neighbor has been threatened by this group of individuals from the crack house for years,” Lopinto said.

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While investigating the complaint, they found Vallee inside an SUV out front, the sheriff added. Vallee was wanted for questioning in connection with recent unrelated cases involving an overdose and thefts of four-wheelers. Deputies ordered him to step outside, but Vallee stayed put.

After about 12 minutes, Vallee started the ignition as one deputy stood directly in front of the SUV, Lopinto said.

“That, of course, escalated the situation,” the sheriff added. Several deputies drew their guns in response, expecting Vallee to take off. “They begged for him to turn the vehicle off, to not put the vehicle in drive, to not put them in this situation,” Lopinto said.

Vallee dropped his hands, hitting the horn.

The sound of honking was followed by gunfire.

Hughes and Louis each shot at Vallee multiple times, Lopinto said, adding that it was later determined that Vallee was unarmed.

Investigators interviewed the five deputies who were on scene, the sheriff said, and the deputies’ accounts were backed up by body-camera footage.

The Jefferson Parish district attorney will review the case and decide whether to prosecute Hughes and Louis on the manslaughter charge, reported.

Despite the criminal charges against Hughes and Louis, the sheriff said he doesn’t believe the former deputies had any “criminal intent” when they shot at Vallee.

“Their perception was that their life was in danger,” Lopinto said. But, he added: “Unfortunately, the use of force in this situation was not justified, as much as I would love to be able to defend them.”

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Over the past week, Lopinto said, he’s talked with his investigators many times, hesitating about the appropriate decision in the case. The sheriff said he considered four options: second-degree murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide and justified homicide.

“We weighed them all out,” Lopinto said, “and honestly, I could make arguments for all four.”

Ultimately, I have concluded that force was justified, just not deadly force.

The sheriff blamed Vallee, too. He forced deputies into “a huge, highly stressful situation where bad things can happen,” Lopinto said. “And that’s what happened.”

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