A sheriff's deputy in a New Orleans suburb was just about to search a suspect when the 19-year-old flipped around, pulled out a gun and reaching over the officer, shot him in the back, a Louisiana sheriff said, calling the incident a "cold blooded murder."
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand late Wednesday said the suspect, identified as Jerman Neveaux, was later apprehended and admitted to shooting Detective David F. Michel Jr. The sheriff said Neveaux was on probation for a previous crime and didn't want to go to jail if Michel found the weapon he was carrying.
"So he killed the deputy," Normand said. "What do you say about that?"
The sheriff said the officer had noticed Neveaux walking behind another person who appeared to be nervous, so he pulled over.
Michel approached Neveaux and placed him up against the police vehicle so he could search him, Normand said. But Neveaux flipped around, "went chest to chest" with the officer, pulled out a gun and shot him in the back.
"As Detective Michel fell to the ground, he fired two more shots at point-blank range into the back of Detective Michel," Normand said.
The officer was able to get on the radio and say he'd been shot, Normand said.
As Michel was brought to a hospital in New Orleans where he later died, officers flooded the area, using dogs and helicopters to search for the suspect. Normand said police were able to find the suspect, who was going through the backyards of houses in the nearby area.
Geralisha Henderson lived in one of those houses. She said she went to her back door Wednesday to make sure it was locked after police combing her street said they were searching for a suspect.
When she went to the back door, she saw what appeared to be a young man dressed in jeans and T-shirt hiding in the back of the yard. Frightened, she went to the street and waved for a police officer to come. When she went to the back door to peek outside again, she said the suspect was much closer to the house. The suspect saw her and asked to be let in, she said.
"He was telling me `Open the door, let me in,"' she said. "He looked scared."
She said she did not see a gun. At that the point, several officers rushed in and detained him in the backyard. Henderson's mother, Alicia, said an officer later came back to the house and told her the man was the suspect they were looking for.
Normand said five witnesses identified Neveaux as the shooter, and authorities found the gun on him and have been able to match it forensically to the shooting. A spokesman for the sheriff's office, John Fortunato, said he has been arrested on charges of first degree murder and assault.
Normand said his office is investigating a video that was brought to their attention by a local media outlet that shows Neveaux's arrest. Normand, who said he saw the video minutes before the news conference, said it shows Neveaux "...being struck by our officers while attempting to gain control of Neveaux." He said Neveaux was still armed at that time.
Neveaux, who was taken to the hospital for treatment after his arrest, had an orbital fracture and scrapes and cuts, Normand said.
As news got out about Michel's death, people began to lay flowers at a makeshift memorial where the shooting happened. One of them was MonaLisa Urbina, 47, who brought flowers and a stuffed animal.
She said she knew Michel, who lived with his family in the same neighborhood as her. She said she first got to know him when he found her two boys riding their bikes instead of being in school.
"He scolded them. He told them not to do it again. And he put fear in them. They never did it again," she said.
Normand said he had visited with Michel's wife who also worked with the sheriff's department.
Appearing to choke up at times, Normand praised the fallen officer, saying he wished he had a thousand like him. Michel started as a reserve officer before joining the force full time. The sheriff said he knew he was a good man when his dad told him his son would call him during or after his shift to let him know he was ok.
"I could tell in his dad's voice that he's going to miss this short call every day," Normand said.
Deputy Chief Craig Taffaro, who commands the parish's operations division, said Michel was a cheerful man who loved his job.
"He was a great guy. He was well-liked. It was quite obvious at the hospital how many friends he had," he said.
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.
Michel joined the sheriff's office in 2007 and was transferred to the street crimes unit in 2015, Fortunato said.
It was the year's second shooting of a Jefferson Parish officer.
Another member of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, Stephen Arnold, was shot and wounded in January during a drug raid on a house in the Lower 9th Ward section of New Orleans.