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911 call for help turns tragic - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

911 call for help turns tragic

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SHREVEPORT, La -

On October 15th, 2013, first responders were called to Americana Drive in Shreveport, the home of 58-year-old John Shepherd, for a man in medical distress.  But quickly, the night turned to tragedy – as police ended up shooting Shepherd, resulting in his death.

The Caddo Parish District Attorney's investigation describes Shepherd becoming combative with firefighters who were unable to tend to his medical issues because he chased them out of the home with a knife.  He was later found to have high levels of Oxycodone in his system.  The EMS crew requested Shreveport Police for back-up, which is not uncommon. The D.A. says the responding officer, Phillip Tucker was told en route to the scene, that Shepherd had a knife and that one neighbor reported shots fired.  

The police dash cam video shows Officer Tucker arrive, take his shotgun and walk to the scene. The firemen can be seen in their reflective gear running back and forth, consistent with the D.A.'s report—which said Shepherd would move toward, then retreat from where the firemen and Tucker were.  According to authorities, both the firemen and the officer ordered Shepherd to put the knife down and show his hands.  When he didn't, and advanced on them, Tucker discharged the shotgun one time, hitting Shepherd in the chest from 9 feet away.  Shepherd was treated at the scene, and then taken to University Health where he was declared dead.

The D.A.'s report concluded that tucker responded in a reasonable manner, and criminal charges were not filed against him.  Police officers are forced to make split second decisions. Decisions that, in this case, led to Shepherd's death.  What about Officer Tucker's training influenced the decision he made that night?

"We can't give them every single scenario they may be confronted with, but we do continual, ongoing service training as far as use of force."  Cpl. Rodney Horton is a Use of Force Instructor with the Shreveport Police Department.

While Shreveport officers are given scenario based training, to deal with different types of people and situations, they say a threat is a threat.

"If they get on scene and it is a person, it doesn't matter if it's a person with mental history, if an officer perceives that someone is going to do some physical harm to him, create great bodily injury or harm to them," says Cpl. Horton, "they have to do what they have to do to protect the citizens of Shreveport and themselves."

Shreveport officers do have what are called less-lethal options.  All officers have OC spray, a taser, and a baton, in addition to a handgun.  Some Shreveport officers have bean bag shot guns (another less-lethal weapon), and some have rifles and shotguns.  Cpl. Horton says they're trained on whatever tools they're given. 

In the review, the D.A. wrote "there is no requirement…that a deadly force situation be responded to with a "less lethal" option which may or may not be effective."  We asked Cpl. Horton, in which situations would less-lethal weapons not be effective. 

"With not only deadly force, but with every tool...whether it's a firearm, whether it's mace, it's not going to effective on every single person…The officer has to take the situation, based on his training, based on his perception," he says. "I've got 600 officers—they go to a situation, one of them may choose to use a less-lethal option where the other officer chooses to use deadly force, and they both may be absolutely correct."

We also asked Cpl. Horton about whether officers are trained to strike a person, with a deadly weapon, in a certain spot so as to avoid killing them.  He says officers are trained to shoot the center mass of whatever target they have available to them.  That could be a person's full body, or just an arm or leg.

In the department that receives 700-900 service calls a day, officers are trained on a variety of lethal and less lethal weapons.  They are also given a lot of leeway to make split second decisions; decisions that mean the difference between life and death. 

Click here for the full Caddo Parish D.A.'s review of the case.

A longer version of the SPD dash cam video can be found above.

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