Police Officer Shot To Death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Three police officers were shot, one fatally, after going to a Baton Rouge home with a search warrant Wednesday afternoon.
The suspected gunman who opened fire on the officers was also killed, police said.
City-Parish Administrative Officer Walter Monsour told the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council that one officer was dead after being shot in the head, another was seriously wounded in the torso. The third officer's injuries were not life-threatening.
''We will not forget. We will focus. We will honor our hero and we will carry on,'' a visibly emotional Police Chief Jeff LeDuff said.
Police spokesman Don Kelly said the three officers were assigned to the narcotics unit.
Please say it wasn't an SKS...
Prayers of comfort for the dead officer's loved ones.
Prayer sent for the officers and their famlies.
Glad the perp was killed.
Police: Suspect growing pot
2 wounded officers improving; search 'routine'
By SANDY DAVIS
Advocate staff writer
A man, who left Baton Rouge residents stunned when he killed a narcotics officer and wounded two others Wednesday was growing marijuana in an upstairs area he converted to a greenhouse.
"He had set up the entire second floor of the duplex as a greenhouse," said Sgt. Don Kelly, a spokesman for the Police Department.
"There were pots, fertilizer, growing lights, everything he needed for a greenhouse," Kelly said.
Gergely Garry Devai, 3634 Capital Heights Ave. also had 72 marijuana plants, 60 plastic bags filled with marijuana ready to sell, scales and other drug paraphernalia, $1,386 in cash, and two guns including a .45-caliber handgun and a sawed-off shotgun, Kelly said.
Police spent much of Thursday piecing together what happened when officers went on what they thought would be a routine search.
"We're all tired," Police Chief Jeff LeDuff said.
What police do know is that Devai opened fire with what police believe was the .45-caliber handgun as the three officers burst through the front door of his duplex with a search warrant in hand about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday.
At least one of the officers returned fire, striking Devai twice in the abdomen and once in the arm, according to an autopsy performed Thursday morning, Kelly said.
Devai was taken to Baton Rouge General Medical Center where he died about an hour after the gunfight.
Detective Terry Melancon, 31, who had been with the Police Department for four years, died in the gunbattle.
Detectives Dennis Smith, 41, and Neal Noel, 35, were wounded.
Both police officers are expected to recover.
After the shooting, police found 100 loose rounds as well as several loaded clips for Devai's handgun inside the duplex, Kelly said.
Police, with their badges covered with a strip of black mourning ribbon Thursday, were struggling to understand what happened on the quiet, middle-class street Wednesday afternoon.
"It began with a neighbor's complaint, as so many do," Kelly said of why the narcotics agents began investigating Devai.
"The neighbors noticed suspicious activities at his house," Kelly said.
The narcotics team launched an investigation and by Aug. 2, they used a confidential informant to buy marijuana from Devai, who police said was of Hungarian descent.
The informant told police that he observed "additional quantities of marijuana packaged for sale" while he was inside the duplex.
Based on that information, Noel asked Judge Todd Hernandez for a search warrant Aug. 4.
"It was a no-knock search warrant," Kelly said. "That allowed them to enter without knocking. But they did knock and repeatedly asked him to open the door on his own terms. He refused."
Seven narcotics agents went to Devai's duplex. Only three went inside.
"I assume there was never an opportunity for the other four to get inside," Kelly said. "Those four officers have been placed on administrative leave."
Placing officers involved in a shooting on administrative leave until an internal investigation is complete is generally routine.
Kelly said all of the narcotics officers were dressed in civilian clothes for the search, but were wearing Kevlar vests with the word "POLICE" on the back. They also had their police badges on chains around their necks.
Because Devai was not considered dangerous, the SWAT team was not sent on the search, Kelly said.
"He did not have a huge criminal background," Kelly said. "This was not considered high risk."
LeDuff said much planning goes into such raids by officers, who consider their policies, procedures as well as the equipment they will need for the search.
"We have to be perfect," LeDuff said. "The guy in the house has to be lucky."
When Devai didn't answer the door, Melancon, Smith and Noel forced their way in the front door, and Devai started shooting, Kelly said.
"It sounded like a war zone over there," said Mike Brady, 31, who lived next to Devai in the duplex. "These walls are paper-thin. All I could hear was screaming, yelling, banging and shots being fired."
"They were yelling, 'Get down! get down!' And, after a few minutes, 'Hang in there! Hang in there!'" he said.
Brady was playing the Madden 2006 football video game when the gunfight started. His front door is only a few feet from Devai's front door.
"I dropped down to the floor and started crawling," Brady said. "I saw powder flying as bullets were coming through the walls."
Police counted seven bullet holes in Brady's apartment.
"I think I'm really lucky to be alive," Brady said.
When Brady first went outside after the shooting, he was ordered back into his apartment by police, who Brady said arrived within a minute of the shooting.
After about 10 minutes, Brady walked back outside to the front yard.
"I saw (Devai) handcuffed and face down in the front yard.
"He had blood on his back, his leg and his shorts," Brady said. "He just kept looking back and forth. He wasn't saying anything."
Police were running out of Devai's apartment.
"A lot of them were crying," Brady said.
Brady said he didn't know Devai very well. The two men exchanged greetings when they passed.
"I did let him use all of the back yard we were supposed to share," Brady said. "He was always building something. Sawing and making things out of wood."
"I have no idea what he was making," Brady added.
Brady said that Devai, who lived alone, seemed to really like his two dogs, Silas, a Labrador mix, and Trouble, a Rottweiler, and two puppies.
"I never expected anything like this to happen," Brady said. "He always seemed like a nice guy."
Thursday morning, police held a private meeting at the police memorial wall at Governmental Building, 222 St. Louis St.
"This was a private vigil," LeDuff said. "We removed the city's flag that was flying when we lost our hero."
"We took it down, folded it and it will be presented to Terry's loving family," LeDuff added.
Melancon's supervisor, who was not identified, then raised a second city flag, and then lowered it to half-staff.
"We could have asked that this be done," LeDuff said. "But we wanted it to be done by our own hands."
LeDuff said that during the meeting the police "had conversation, we cried together, we prayed together, and decided we're going to take this journey over the next couple of days together."
By today, police will begin the "process of honoring our fallen angel," LeDuff said of the services that will be held for Melancon. Visitation will be at the Healing Place Church on Highland Road Friday and Saturday, and the funeral will be held at the church at 11 a.m. Saturday.
"We will then honor him by escorting him to his final resting place," LeDuff said.
Brother Wayne Austin, an associate pastor of Healing Place Church, said he's expecting a large crowd for the funeral.
"We can seat 1,200 people," he said. "And we expect every seat to be taken."
He said Melancon's family as well as church members "are broken-hearted. We're all hurt."
"He was a wonderful young man who loved God," Austin said of Melancon. "He loved life. He was so very special."
Melancon's death has "touched so many people," Austin added. "Ever since anyone can remember, Terry wanted to be a policeman.
"All he ever wanted to do was make this a better place for all of us to live."
Melancon's uncle, Lynn Melancon, who retired after serving 28 years as a Baton Rouge police officer, said he and the rest of his nephew's family are devastated.
"Terry was smart, intelligent, likable, and went out of his way to help people," Melancon said. "He was a happy person who was usually smiling."
The elder Melancon agreed that his nephew loved his job.
"My father, who was Terry's grandfather, was also a cop for 30 years," Melancon said. "It's in his blood. Ever since I can remember, Terry knew that. All he really wanted was to be a cop, and he was a good cop.
"And, no matter what happened, he loved it. He really did. He loved being a cop."
Neal Noel, who was shot in the leg, was in good spirits Thursday, LeDuff said.
"He went through surgery last night," LeDuff said. "Some repairs were begun on his leg, but he is a long way from being back to the way he was. He has a long road ahead of him -- but he is on the road to recovery."
LeDuff said officers were "really worried" about Dennis Smith after the shooting.
"We were worried that we were not only going to lose Terry, but we were concerned about Dennis," LeDuff said.
Officers at the scene said Smith was shot in the back of the head and the bullet ricocheted into his shoulder.
By Thursday afternoon, LeDuff said Smith's condition, while still listed as critical, had improved.
"He was taken off a ventilator, was chewing ice, he's talking, and I've been told that beautiful smile he possesses has found a way to surface," LeDuff said.
Kenneth J. Riemer of Mobile, Ala., said Thursday he has been friends with Smith since the two were in LSU's Tiger Band in 1982.
"He played the trombone in the band," Riemer said. "He was also the Tiger mascot for a couple of years."
Riemer said Smith is well-known in the city, for his years in the band as well as for being a police officer.
"He's a great guy," Riemer said. "He's funny, lighthearted, but strong. He's the kind that we all hover over, the type with a personality that others feed off of.
"We're all relieved he's going to be all right," he added.
Dead man possibly faced light sentence
By ADRIAN ANGELETTE
Advocate staff writer
The Hungarian national who died in a shootout with narcotics officers Wednesday might have qualified for a light sentence or even probation if he had surrendered instead of pulling a gun, Baton Rouge lawyers speculated Thursday. "It's a stupid thing. If he had just not armed himself with a weapon, there's a good chance he would not have received any jail time if he was a first offender," said John Russell, assistant public defender, of Gergely Garry Devai.
Devai, 25, formerly of Debrecen, Hungary, apparently moved to Baton Rouge a decade ago when his father joined the faculty at LSU.
Istvan Devai is an assistant professor at LSU's Wetland Biogoechemistry Institute. The professor couldn't be reached for comment.
Gergely Devai went to high school in Baton Rouge, then attended LSU, where he graduated in May 2003.
Information about his degree and major wasn't available Thursday afternoon.
Police said Devai shot and killed Detective Terry Melancon, 31, and wounded detectives Dennis Smith, 41, and Neal Noel, 35.
At least one officer returned fire. Devai died of his wounds at Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City.
The Advocate found no prior narcotics convictions for Gergely Devai in a search of East Baton Rouge Parish court records. However, he did face a misdemeanor assault charge after being accused of brandishing a weapon nearly a year ago.
According to City Court records, Greg Sampson, 53, of Baton Rouge told police in September that a silver Nissan pickup driven by Gergely Devai had "cut him off" in traffic on Florida Boulevard.
When Sampson pulled up on Devai's right to ask "what's your problem," Devai pointed a shotgun at him, Sampson told police.
When stopped by police Officer Douglas Atkins, Devai provided a different account, according to the police report.
"I did not cut him off, I passed him," Devai told the officer. "I did not point a gun at him, but I did show it to him so that he would leave me alone.
"All I know is I had a crazy black man pull up next to my truck, and I wanted to have my gun out first just in case he pulled one out," Devai told the officer.
Atkins cited Devai for the incident and confiscated the shotgun.
Assistant City Prosecutor Terry Irby said Devai did not appear for his scheduled July 5 trial date on the count of aggravated assault. A bench warrant was issued.
The trial and a contempt hearing for not showing up for trial were scheduled for Nov. 22, Irby said.
Narcotics detectives were aware of the incident, but did not consider Devai dangerous prior to Wednesday's shootout.
Police suspected Devai was selling marijuana from his Capitol Heights duplex, and the shootings occurred during an attempted search of his residence. Police said at a news conference Thursday that a search of Devai's duplex turned up 72 marijuana plants, 60 wrapped baggies of marijuana, $1,386, drug paraphernalia and two guns.
Russell, who has spent years defending people accused of drug offenses, said that had Devai been arrested, convicted and sentenced, he would have been eligible for parole after serving only a third of his sentence. Or, Russell said, Devai could have been released for "good time" by the Department of Corrections after serving only half his sentence.
Russell also said that he is familiar with the house where the shootings took place because his wife's best friend lived there before Devai.
When the friend was living there, Russell said, the upstairs was a bedroom for a child and not a place for cultivating marijuana. He said a long narrow stairwell leads up to the room that appears to have been converted attic space because of an angled ceiling.
Another defense attorney, Francis "Bo" Rougeou said that unless other felony offenses had been involved, Devai could have received probation of up to five years.
"Drug Court has two goals," Rougeou said. "If you're using drugs, they want you to stop using drugs, and if you're supplying drugs, they want you to stop supplying drugs, and that might involve some jail time," depending on the amount of drugs involved.
Prosecutor Darwin Miller, who has years of experience prosecuting narcotics cases in Baton Rouge, also said it's possible a person under Devai's circumstances could have received probation.
Police likely would have booked Devai on counts of possession with intent to distribute marijuana and cultivation of marijuana -- provided they had not found a gun and no other crimes were associated with the arrest, Miller said.
The sentencing range for the marijuana crimes is five to 30 years, but judges have the authority to suspend the sentence and place a person under supervised probation.
"I've seen judges hand down the whole gamut," Miller said.
In addition to probation, Miller said he has seen judges sentence convicted drug dealers to six months of boot camp at Hunt Correctional Center and to years in the state penitentiary.
If the narcotics officers had found that Devai had a firearm during a drug arrest, Devai could have faced an additional charge of carrying a gun while in possession of narcotics.
That offense carries a penalty of five to 10 years in prison, and Devai could not have received probation on the gun charge, the prosecutor said.
Marijuana offenses also become more severe as the amount of narcotics and number of offenses increase, Russell said.
Metro reporter William Taylor contributed to this report.
Good they got the guy, glad it wasn't an SKS or EBR, sad the Detective died.
If he was not considered dangerous, why did they have a "no-knock warrant?" I assume that the entry is documented on videotape, so it can be verified that despite having secured a "no-knock warrant" for a person not believed to be a threat, who had far too much dope to flush away, the officers knocked and announced. Right? Right?
2 + 2 = 5.
That sucks, prayers sent to the families.
I was told the torso guy was shot in back of the neck also....he's far from OK.
1 killed in the line of duty and what, two more injured, over fucking pot. Goddamn, I hate this.
May God be with the family of the deceased, and those still living.
I agree, I feel for the LEO'sand their family.
This over pot....when in fuck will this country wake the fuck up? People talking on cell phones commuting to work are a greater threat to humaity....
more victims of the war on (some) drugs
First things first. It is a sad day when a man, who dedicated his life to the service of others, dies. My heart goes out to his family.
However, I can see this morphing into a "see we told you the police should use SWAT teams and no-knock warrants" type of thread.
-They probably didn't need the SWAT team, if they hadn't totally given up their tactical advantage. I'm not talking about just knocking. They sat there trying to talk him out. What were they thinking? If he wasn't considered high risk then the no-knock should have been issued for possible destruction of evidence, so why take so long to enter?
-How about thinking this thing through and entering through another entrance, while keeping him talking near the front door?
-Or why even bother to go in at that point? Why not wait him out?
-Or better yet, stake the place out and nab him when he comes out and then serve the search warrant? He's gotta come out sometime to sell his dope.
Some here will try to turn this article into the case for no-knock SWAT type entries. I say it proves the point that bad tactics employed by brave men can lead to disaster.
For the record, I have no problems with no-knock warrants or SWAT teams. I do have a problem with half-assed investigations and shoddy background work leading to these tactics being used against innocent people with repercussions paid only by the taxpayer.
Fifth officer killed by gunfire this month...
Such a tragety, prayers sent to victims families
Not considered dangerous.....Um...Am I missing something.
He was a drug dealer, for Gods sake. You know, criminal minded, doesn't obey laws. The informant must have forgot he was packing, and the SOSG in the place.
Prayer sent for the deceased officer. The rest of them need retraining. WTF!
If it was a no-knock warrant, what difference would it make whether they knocked or not before making entry?
Besides, we all know that if they hadn't knocked, people would be coming on here saying that the no-knock entry was the only reason the doper shot at them.
We also all know, that if they had used a SWAT team, and they had killed the doper with no injuries to the police, people would be coming on here, complaining about the militarizationof the police, and saying that the police don't care how many criminals die as long as none of the police officers get killed.
Tell me I'm wrong.
I think that leans to the no knock wrong address issue. I have no problem with them taking down crack houses and the like. After he refused to open, they should have backed off and called SWAT and TG the place.
His "point" was that he is sure the po po are lying.
You know, the old "Government Cover - Up Psychosis."
Very prevalent condition here.
Presumably, in order to secure a no-knock warrant, the affiant had to swear that there were specific circumstances present that would either increase the risk of harm to the officers or the occupants or would result in the destruction of evidence if ordinary knock-and-announce procedures were followed. However, the officers say that when the warrant was executed, they knocked and announced. Either they did not knock and announce, they decided to assume the enhanced risk of evidence tampering or death, or the warrant was falsely sworn.
Yeah, that's psychosis. Why don't you try explaining how it is even theoretically possible that all statements by the officers in this episode - including the allegations in the affidavit underlying the warrant - can simultaneously be true, Five-O?
Perhaps in that jurisdiction (as in some I have experience with) all drug warrants are "no knock" due to the liklihood of evidence being destroyed but the officers simply choose when and if they are going to actually execute in that fashion...
They DO have the option of executing it to a lesser degree than the warrant allows you know? It is called discretion and thank God and the courts we still have plenty of it.
I think that answer is somewhat better than "theoretically." Dont you?
Actually in rereading your post you answer your own question don't you? (See red text.}
Keep searching for a cure, Bro! Psychosis doen not have to be for life.
Then why the no-knock warrant?
Perhaps the planning phase should be subject to review.
No they don't have to be perfect. They can even raid the wrong home and not be held accountable.
No-knock warrant and they knock, what a plan.
Funny how it always sounds or looks like a war zone to people who have never been in a war.
It must have been like a football game.
Apparently if you have Madden 2006 you don't need a back yard.
And he's lucky they are alive.
Yeah, we would always sit in the back yard and he would spark one up.
Not considered high risk, yes I believe that's what they said.
My heart goes out to the injured and dead and their families but this stinks to high heaven.
Mistakes have been made.
Others will be blamed.
My condolences to the families of the deceased and wounded.
Hopefully the forthcoming review will result in some thought being given as to how best to serve a location search warrant for an amount of marijuana which is too large to flush. It would appear that attempting to do while the suspect is home, although convenient, may not be the most efficient.
With a prior for brandishing a shotgun during a road rage incident....
Sure, the guys prior arrest for brandishing a shotgun during a road rtage incident justified no-knock terms in the judges opinion. But for PR reasons the PD decided to try the low key approach instead and it backfired horribly.
All over a plant, what a waste.
Damn drug dealers. Scum!
They use their drug money and affiliated gangs to terrorize people. And that's why we need to be strong in this war on drugs.
It's a good thing the drug dealer died but a tragedy that those officers had to suffer and that one die. It's easy to say they could have done better to protect themselves but hindsight is 20/20.
R.I.P. our brother in blue ...I did not know him but work in a neighboring city 50 milles away
When will we learn????
Cops/civilians, losing their lives over a bullshit "war"................
Just like the military, and the bullshit adventure in Iraq.
Cops...... Your lives ain't worth this shitte!!
(What a dumbass perp!!)
that is illegal to have.
Did you both miss this part?
"The Advocate found no prior narcotics convictions for Gergely Devai in a search of East Baton Rouge Parish court records. However, he did face a misdemeanor assault charge after being accused of brandishing a weapon nearly a year ago. According to City Court records, Greg Sampson, 53, of Baton Rouge told police in September that a silver Nissan pickup driven by Gergely Devai had "cut him off" in traffic on Florida Boulevard. When Sampson pulled up on Devai's right to ask "what's your problem," Devai pointed a shotgun at him..."
So the guy talking on his cell phone is more dangerous than the guy who is pointing a shotgun at people in traffic?
If you have to go in. Do it fast and furious.
in response to "why cant they just knock on the door" question.
....its a risk that comes along with the job. Don't expect any sympathy here. I agree its a rather shitty risk that comes with the job, but if they weren't aware of that risk, they were idiots.
//didn't bother to read all of the thread, and not going to.