NEW ORLEANS – A former New Orleans police officer accused of beating a retired schoolteacher on Bourbon Street shortly after Hurricane Katrina was found dead of a gunshot wound Sunday night in an apparent suicide.
The body of Lance Schilling, 30, was found at a home in suburban Metairie. He and former officer Robert Evangelist were accused of beating Robert Davis, 64, who had returned to New Orleans to check on his property in October 2005.
The Jefferson Parish coroner's office performed an autopsy Monday, determining Schilling died of a gunshot wound to the roof of the mouth.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office would provide few details. Sheriff's spokesman Col. John Fortunato said department policy prohibited discussion of details of a suicide unless it happened in a public place.
The beating incident was captured on videotape by an Associated Press Television News team the night of Oct. 8, 2005.
The tape shows Davis being kneed and struck at least four times on the head by two police officers. He flailed and twisted as he was dragged to the sidewalk, where he lay bleeding.
Davis was booked on municipal charges of public intoxication, resisting arrest, battery on a police officer and public intimidation. All charges were later dropped. He has said he does not drink and that he was on Bourbon Street in search of a place to buy cigarettes when police grabbed him.
Franz Zibilich, who represented Schilling, said he was saddened by his client's death. He believed the suspected suicide had no connection to the pending trial, which had been set for June 29.
"The truth be known, he was looking forward to having this matter tried and heard," Zibilich said.
Joe Bruno, a lawyer for Davis, said that Davis is undergoing psychiatric treatment in Atlanta, where he's lived since the beating. Bruno said Davis is emotionally scarred and is apprehensive about returning to New Orleans.
"He's not doing well emotionally," Bruno said Monday.
Meanwhile, Davis' federal civil lawsuit against the New Orleans Police Department seeking compensation has been put on hold pending the outcome of the criminal case, Bruno said.
In a related matter, charges against a third officer accused of a misdemeanor charge of simple battery against APTN producer Richard Matthews were dismissed on June 1, according to Eric Hessler, the officer's lawyer. Stuart Smith was suspended for 120 days and remains on the police force. He had been accused of roughing up Matthews at the Bourbon Street scene in October 2005 after Matthews identified himself as working for The Associated Press.
State District Judge Frank Marullo threw out the charge against Smith because prosecutors improperly used a statement Smith made to the police department, Hessler said.
"The police department asks him to come in, and compels him to give a statement and promises him that it will not be used in a criminal proceeding, and then turns around and gives it to the DA's office," Hessler said. "This Bourbon Street case was not handled properly from day one."
Hessler said the district attorney's office has filed notice it intends to appeal. A district attorney's spokesman did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Monday.
New Orleans police spokesman Marlon Defillo said Schilling had not been with the department since December 2005.