Two Jefferson Parish, Lousiana, sheriff's deputies have been charged with manslaughter and fired for fatally shooting an unarmed man in a car last week.
Isaac Hughes, 29, and Johnathan Louis, 35, were "not justified" in shooting Daniel Vallee last week, Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto III said during a press conference Monday night.
Deputies Were Responding to a Noise Complaint at a 'Known Crack House'
The deputies shot Vallee Feb. 16 after responding to a noise complaint at a "known crack house," along with three other deputies, the sheriff said. At the time, Vallee was sitting in a parked car outside the residence that authorities said had a "switched license plate."
Lopinto said the deputies 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. During the 12-minute standoff, Vallee locked the doors and started the car engine, leading officers to believe he was going to flee.
"That, of course, escalated the situation," Lopinto said. "Numerous of my deputies drew their weapons at that point in time, expecting him to try to take off."
Vallee was Shot After He Accidentally Set Off the Car's Horn
The sheriff said one deputy was standing directly in front of the car and another in the front but off to the side. At some point, Vallee accidentally set off the car's horn, prompting Hughes and Louis to both fire their weapons multiple times, killing Vallee inside the vehicle. He did not have any weapons on him or in the car, according to the sheriff.
"My opinion, that horn, whether it scares my deputy or whether my deputy reacts to the shot of the horn, ends up firing his weapon," Lopinto said. "The second deputy fired his weapons reacting to that gunfire."
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.
'Where's the Immediate Threat?!'
Valle's family lawyer Glenn McGovern spoke to WWL-TV about the incident. "You can't automatically shoot the car, shoot the occupants of the car if you can get out of way," McGovern said. "It has to be an immediate danger and we know, apparently, from reports he wasn't armed. So, where's the immediate threat?"
Hughes had been with the department since 2013 and Louis since 2020. If convicted of manslaughter, Hughes and Louis face up to 40 years in prison.