Saturday, March 14, 2009

Louisiana: Gunfire exchanged at car dealership in Sulphur

Lake Charles, Louisiana

From KPLC of March 13, 2009
Gunfire exchanged at car dealership in Sulphur

It's a miracle no one was killed or injured last night at Billy Navarre Chevrolet in Sulphur. That's where shots were exchanged between a police officer and an employee.. It was a miscommunication that could have been deadly.

It all started after a burglar alarm at the car dealership on East Napoleon. An employee arrived ahead of police and went inside to check the business. He had a flashlight and a gun. When police saw the employee inside they thought he was an armed burglar and fired shots, while the employee thought he was being fired at by a burglar. General Manager Ryan Navarre says the employee was crouched behind a desk. "I get the most horrific phone call I have ever gotten in my life. An employee is telling me that he's being shot at and he had already called 911 and he still was trying to get help. He was hunkered down in the service department telling me somebody was shooting at him and he returned fire. It was just a horrible situation.

Windows on the northeast corner of the building were shot out. And there are bullet holes on various objects inside and out. Navarre says they were trying to call off police when the shots were exchanged."Thank God that he didn't get killed or that they didn't get killed. And it looks like somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty rounds were shot outside and six from the inside. And it was just a failure of communication because I was on the phone with 911 telling them that my employee's in the building."

While a Sulphur police officer fired first Assistant Chief Glenn Berry says he had good reason to do what he did. "There's no doubt in my mind the officer was justified. He felt that this man was about to shoot his partner in the back. He felt that with every fiber of his being. And he fired in defense of his fellow officer."

Police say once officers have been summoned to a building an employee should never go inside-- but should always wait outside with a key. Berry emphasizes, "Do not go into the business. Do not arm yourself when you go there. Wait in your vehicle until police arrive. Then open the door for them. Speak with the police. Don't go into the business. In this case this could have been just a terrible tragedy."

The employee was arrested and booked for unlawful use of a weapon, but it's not certain whether formal charges will be pursued. An internal investigation is still underway by Sulphur police.

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