French Settlement — Tabatha Peyronnin awoke early Wednesday morning to her 19-year-old son shaking her.
Matthew Peyronnin told her he thought burglars were stalking their mobile home, on the outskirts of French Settlement, and he went to get a shotgun.
“As soon as he opened the door, (gun)fire rang out,” Tabatha Peyronnin recalled in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
Her son and the family’s dog were shot, and one bullet hit Matthew Peyronnin’s gun, which flew out of his hand, his mother said.
The teen, bleeding, crawled toward the kitchen, and Tabatha Peyronnin moved to take the gun herself to protect the home as a bullet whizzed within inches of her head, she said.
Before she reached the firearm, she heard the people outside identify themselves as the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office.
A deputy shot Peyronnin several times, though he is expected to recover. When he is released from Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, he will be booked into the Livingston Parish Jail on a count of attempted second-degree murder of a police officer, State Police wrote in a news release.
Hours after the shooting, law enforcement and family members gave differing accounts of what happened at the home on Queen Florence Farms Road, a gravel road surrounded by woods near King George Park.
According to State Police, who are investigating the shooting, parish deputies received a call about 2 a.m. saying Matthew Peyronnin was armed with a shotgun and threatening suicide.
When deputies arrived on scene, they “made contact with (Matthew) Peyronnin on the front porch of the residence, at which time (Matthew) Peyronnin raised a shotgun in the direction of the deputies. Confronted with the weapon, a LPSO Deputy fired and struck (Matthew) Peyronnin several times,” troopers wrote in a news release.
Matthew Peyronnin’s parents say the state’s account is untrue.
“Their statements? Total lies,” Tabatha Peyronnin said.
She said she could see her son when he went to the door, and he never raised his gun. He didn’t have a chance. He never even made it through an exterior glass door, which was shattered by the gunfire, she said.
Furthermore, she said, the deputies never identified themselves until after the shooting began, and their cruisers were not lit.
She compared Wednesday morning’s incident to another run-in with parish law enforcement from a few weeks or months prior. Once again, deputies were sent to check on Matthew Peyronnin, who had talked about hurting himself in the past and received mental health treatment, his mother said.
But on that earlier call, deputies announced themselves as they arrived, Tabatha Peyronnin said.
Recently, Matthew Peyronnin may have been upset, even “heartbroken” over his relationship with a woman, but he generally seemed happy and was excited to start a new job working with his father, Tabatha Peyronnin said.
She was not certain about the exact threat that led someone to call for law enforcement to check on her son.
State Police Lt. J.B. Slaton said only that the caller thought Matthew Peyronnin was suicidal and that “she had good reason (to believe) he had the means to commit suicide.”
The family and State Police both agreed that Matthew Peyronnin never fired his shotgun.
“I believe they seen the gun and just opened fire. … They just opened fire on my baby. … He was trying to protect his family,” Tabatha Peyronnin said.
“I was in here screaming like any mom would. I was watching my baby bleeding. … All he said was ‘Mama, they shot me. Mama, they shot me,’ over and over again.”
His father, Matt Peyronnin, said his son was hit four times. Matthew Peyronnin’s attorney, Franz Borghardt, said he was shot once in the neck, once in the hip and twice in the leg. Borghardt said it was too early to determine the long-term effects of the wounds.
The Peyronnin family has not been allowed to see Matthew Peyronnin due to his pending arrest, Borghardt said. However, the attorney met with Matthew Peyronnin on Wednesday afternoon and said he appeared clear-headed, all things considered, but that “he’s obviously scared” of the criminal case. Borghardt said the family has not yet decided whether to file a civil suit, but they have not excluded the possibility.
Borghardt said that when he arrived at the hospital, Matthew Peyronnin’s first question was whether his family, including his dog, were safe.
The family’s weimaraner, Thor, was struck by gunfire, a bullet grazing its head deep enough to reveal the skull, said Matt Peyronnin, the father. The dog is expected to survive.
Matt Peyronnin walked through the home Wednesday afternoon, showing bullet-sized holes in furniture, walls, a cabinet and ceiling. Family members estimated more than a dozen shots were fired.
State Police have not yet released how many deputies were on scene during the shooting, how many shots were fired or the type of gun used, Slaton said.
They do believe the shots were fired by a single deputy, whose name has not been released.
In a brief written statement, Sheriff Jason Ard said the deputy has been placed on administrative leave with pay until State Police conclude their investigation. Ard declined to comment on the state’s case.
Slaton could not predict how long the investigation might take to untangle precisely what happened. He said detectives will give equal weight to all victims, whether they be parish deputies or members of the Peyronnin family.
Tuesday was the third time in the past 9 months that Livingston Parish law enforcement shot a man while responding to a potential suicide.
In February, Denham Springs City Police shot and killed truck driver Robert Kohl near the Bass Pro Shops. In August, a parish deputy fatally shot Freddie LeBlanc outside his home on Old Baton Rouge Highway near the Tangipahoa Parish line.
In both cases, officers said the deceased pointed a gun toward law enforcement, and in both cases the shooting was ruled justified.
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