GRETNA, La. – Two men have been killed and a sheriff's deputy wounded in a shooting during an undercover drug buy in Louisiana.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto said it happened around 10:20 p.m. Wednesday outside a restaurant near Gretna.
The sheriff said two undercover officers had blocked a car with their vehicle and the other car's driver accelerated and hit a third officer standing nearby, Lopinto said. The undercover officers fired, killing the driver, and wounding a passenger who died at a hospital a short time later.
An officer was hit in the abdomen by gunfire, probably from another officer, the sheriff said.
"He jumped into one of our detective's vehicles and they transported him to University (Medical Center)," Lopinto said.
The officer was out of surgery early Thursday, in stable condition and expected to recover. The officer hit by the vehicle did not go to the hospital.
The Jefferson Parish coroner's office identified the deceased as Chris Joseph, 38, and Daviri Robertson, 39, both of New Orleans. Autopsies for both men are scheduled for Friday, according to Mark Bone, chief death investigator for the coroner's office.
The sheriff, a former narcotics detective, said his narcotics unit plays an important role in the parish's record-low crime rates in recent years.
"People play stupid games when it comes to narcotics, and unfortunately we have to walk into that dividing line to try to make the parish a little safer every single day," he told The Advocate of New Orleans.
The sheriff's office does not equip its officers with body-worn cameras or dashboard cameras, citing the cost of storing the video.
Some community members expressed concern about the shootings.
"They did not have to kill him at all, they did not have to shoot him, he was not armed, he did not have no gun or anything," Donna Joseph, Chris Joseph's sister, told WVUE-TV as relatives and friends gathered in the parking lot of the restaurant where the shooting occurred. "He was blocked in by several cars, Jefferson Parish officers have a problem with shooting people."
A spokesman for Robertson's family, New Orleans attorney John Fuller, told the New Orleans Advocate he hoped an agency outside the Sheriff's Office joined the investigation into whether all laws and internal rules were followed in Wednesday night's deadly shooting.
Fuller said he has "great respect" for the work law enforcement does. "However, questions certainly arise when a passenger in a car is killed when all accounts suggest that the driver was the intended target."
Fuller, who was representing Robertson in a pending Orleans Parish court case involving battery, drugs and possessing a weapon as a felon, added, "Daviri wasn't perfect, but I loved him as a person. He was funny. He was outspoken. He loved his family, and he will greatly missed by his family. What cannot be lost in any of this is that, at the end of the day, he was still a human being."
The Sheriff's Office has not said whether it intends on inviting an outside agency to scrutinize the incident. They also have not said whether the deputies who fired their guns have been placed on desk duty.