ST. MARTINVILLE — About a dozen relatives and neighbors gathered Tuesday at the home of Michael Noel expressed disbelief that a St. Martin Parish sheriff’s deputy shot and killed the mentally ill man they knew as friendly and respectful.
They consoled a grief-stricken Barbara Noel and described her 32-year-old son as a man who exhibited signs of mental illness but was not a violent person.
“Everybody in the neighborhood knew Michael,” said Daniel Wagner, a neighbor. “He’s totally nonviolent.”
Another neighbor, Norris Celestine, said Michael Noel — a father to three children under the age of 7 — often stopped by his house to chat.
“That’s a good fellow. A real nice fellow,” Celestine said. “And I’m not saying that because of what happened. He was just a real nice person. Would not hurt anyone.”
Barbara Noel on Monday had requested an order for protective custody for Michael Noel — the youngest of her seven children, who lived with her — after he began talking to himself and exhibiting signs of a mental unraveling his family attributed to diagnoses of bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia.
“I didn’t know they was gonna shoot him,” she said, pausing to weep while sitting in the living room where Michael Noel died.
While executing the order after 6 p.m. Monday, a St. Martin Parish sheriff’s deputy shot Michael Noel in the chest after he resisted restraint and powered through two shocks from a stun gun, according to his mother and aunt, Sable “Pat” Alex, who both witnessed the shooting.
Both women said Michael Noel was unarmed with one handcuff around one wrist when he died near the doorway.
State Police are investigating the shooting but had not released much information on Tuesday afternoon, including whether the man had a weapon.
“We can confirm that (Noel) has been shot and killed and at least one round was fired,” said Brooks David, spokesperson for State Police Troop I.
An autopsy is scheduled Wednesday morning at a Lafayette forensic center, said Michael Noel’s older sister, Lakiesha Noel.
Both deputies involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave while the investigation is underway, said Maj. Ginny Higgins, St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesperson.
Higgins confirmed the deputies went to the Noel’s home to execute the order for protective custody requested by Barbara Noel.
The process requires request and approval from the area coroner’s office, which then dispatches local law enforcement to take a severely unstable individual into custody for immediate mental health treatment.
Barbara Noel said her son was afraid of hospitals, courthouses and police, but law enforcement had successfully intervened before to help control him during a breakdown. She said he had trouble speaking during the episodes and requested someone trained in mental health care administer the Monday protective order.
“(The Coroner’s Office) had to have somebody else than the police. A counselor or something,” she said through tears.
“I don’t think they (police) know anything to do about that — how to deal with a mental patient,” she added.
Higgins said the Sheriff’s Office has administered crisis intervention training — in which officers are trained on how to de-escalate a situation when an individual is suffering a mental crisis — for its corrections and patrol officers at least four times since 2014.
“We try to get as many of our guys in there as we can,” Higgins said.
Information on how long both deputies have been on the force was not immediately available.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.