Two Louisiana sheriff’s deputies were arrested on manslaughter charges and fired after their boss said their use of force in a man’s fatal shooting was not justified.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto III announced the arrests of Isaac Hughes, 29, and Johnathan Louis, 35, during a news conference on Monday, five days after Daniel Vallee was killed.
Deputies shot him Feb. 16 after responding to a noise complaint at a “known crack house,” the sheriff said. At the time, Vallee was sitting in a parked car outside the residence that authorities said had a “switched license plate.”
While authorities were investigating the noise complaint, Lopinto said they learned Vallee was wanted for questioning about thefts in the area and an overdose investigation. Deputies asked him numerous times to get out of the vehicle but he refused, according to the sheriff.
“He refused to cooperate with our officers. He refused to cooperate with them for over 12 minutes,” Lopinto told reporters.
At one point, Vallee turned the running car off and locked the doors, the sheriff said. Vallee “put his hands up” but he still would not come out of the car, he said.
“After this was going on for 12 minutes or so, Mr. Vallee decided to start the vehicle back up. This, of course, escalated the situation. Numerous of my deputies drew their weapons at that point and time, expecting them to try and take off,” Lopinto said.
The sheriff said about five deputies were at the scene, including one who was standing directly in front of the car and another who was in the front but off to the side.
The situation escalated when Vallee, still holding his hands in the air, dropped them and hit the horn, the sheriff said.
“My opinion, that horn, whether it scares my deputy or whether my deputy reacts to the sound of the horn, ends up firing his weapon,” Lopinto said. “That in turn, the second deputy fired his weapon reacting to that gunfire.”
Hughes and Louis both fired their weapons multiple times, the sheriff said. Vallee did not have any weapons on him or in the car, according to the sheriff.
The former deputies cooperated with the investigation and body-camera video “backed up” their accounts of what happened, according to Lopinto, who said he did not think the shooting was intentional. The body-camera footage has not yet been publicly released.
“Unfortunately, the use of force in this situation was not justified,” Lopinto said.
An attorney for Vallee’s family was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday. Vallee’s family told The Times-Picayune that he struggled with drugs but they questioned why deputies did not use other tactics.
“He’s a struggling addict. That doesn’t mean he should have been shot and killed in the manner that he was,” his aunt, Tara Phillips, told the newspaper.
Hughes had been with the department since 2013 and Louis since 2020. It’s not clear if they have obtained attorneys. A union representative could not immediately be reached on Tuesday.