JEANERETTE — Authorities arrested two Iberia Parish men Wednesday afternoon in the death of Jeanerette Police Officer Juandre Gilliam, who was killed in a crash late Tuesday during a high-speed chase that began with an attempted traffic stop.
Antre T. Joseph, 21, was booked on counts of manslaughter and aggravated flight from an officer in Gilliam’s death and the related pursuit. Joseph is accused of eluding Gilliam — who was attempting a traffic stop in his marked Ford Crown Victoria police car — in a black Chevrolet Colorado that belongs to 57-year-old Clint Rogers.
Rogers was booked on a count of criminal mischief for obstructing the investigation after he denied knowledge of who had been driving his truck, State Police spokesman Brooks David said. An unnamed 16-year-old was also riding in the truck with Joseph during the chase, but the juvenile was released after questioning.
Investigators determined the two vehicles collided during the pursuit, but it’s unclear where the pursuit began and whether the collision caused Gilliam to lose control of his vehicle.
“We only know at this point that they hit each other,” David said.
Gilliam, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the car as it crossed the center line and overturned after striking a cement culvert along the northbound lane of St. Peter Street, a mile-long stretch of rural road near the St. Mary Parish border and beside Le Maire Memorial Airport.
State Police investigators were still surveying the grisly scene Wednesday afternoon, where blood-stained grass and the yellow, spraypainted outline of a human figure marked where Gilliam lay before police responded to a report of an overturned vehicle around 10:30 p.m.
The 22-year-old officer was pronounced dead at Iberia General Medical Center.
Sprawling fields of young sugarcane stalks surround the home of Gilliam’s grandparents, where about two dozen of his family and friends were congregated in mourning Wednesday afternoon.
Gilliam’s grandfather, Joseph Washington, said he and Gilliam’s grandmother, Emma, raised him to be “a strong man” who was never in trouble, who was an outstanding high-school athlete and who grew up to be a dedicated husband to LaToya Gilliam and father of two young sons — with a baby girl on the way.
“We never lost love for one another. He was always visiting, asking ‘Paw-Paw’ if he needed anything,” Washington recalled. “That’s my heart.”
Denzel Gilliam, 20, said he had a close relationship with his older brother, whom he described as an action-loving man who was looking forward to his budding — although unexpected — career in law enforcement.
“He said he never thought this was something he’d do, but it was just something he fell in love with,” Denzel Gilliam said.
After enlisting briefly with the U.S. Army after high school — Washington said he decided it wasn’t the path he wanted to take — Juandre Gilliam joined the Jeanerette Police Department in August 2013 and graduated from the police academy in March.
Officers are required to complete a 40-hour firearms course before they’re allowed on duty, and they’re asked to begin 12-14 weeks of training at the police academy within about a year of their employment, Police Chief Marvin Grogan said.
Grogan described law enforcement work in the city of less than 6,000 as “nothing overwhelming.” In the 19 years the Patterson native has worked as an officer in Jeanerette, he said, he doesn’t recall working a homicide.
“We’re really blessed as a law enforcement community,” Grogan said. And in Gilliam’s case, he said, “it was just a regular traffic stop.”
Although Gilliam alerted dispatchers he was making a traffic stop on the truck — which allowed investigators to determine the make, model and license plate number of the vehicle involved — it’s still unclear at this point why he was making the stop.
“Hopefully, through the investigation, we’ll be able to find out,” David said.
Memorial visitation hours are scheduled Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Patterson Civic Center, and following the 1 p.m. funeral service, Gilliam will be buried in the Sorrel Community Cemetery.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.