Officers with dogs and a trio of helicopters combed the swamps around the Frenchtown Road Conservation Area on Thursday in a search for a fugitive from Walker previously convicted of a 2003 attempted rape.
Dennis Shampine, 33, is wanted on two counts of robbery, one count of aggravated battery and two counts of failure to register as a sex offender, said Walker police Capt. John Sharp.
A search for Shampine on Tuesday prompted schools in Walker to go into lockdown, but he eluded capture.
At least eight agencies participated in Thursday’s manhunt, which began around 7:30 a.m. and lasted throughout the day.
The search perimeter stretched from the area of Frenchtown Road in the north to Interstate 12 in the south and from the Amite River on the east to North Stevendale Road in the west.
Between the number of agencies involved and the fact that officers cycled through to assist as they were able, Sharp was unable to estimate Thursday afternoon just how many people had participated in the search.
He defended the massive response by pointing to the number of current felonies connected to Shampine, his history of violence and the fear that his violence may escalate.
“The crime for which he was convicted in 2003 was a heinous act that almost resulted in a homicide,” Sharp said. “What’s the price tag you can put on that?
“There’s not a price tag that’s too great to get this person off the street.”
Shampine had been living in the Walker area after being released from prison and placed on parole. On Thursday afternoon, attempts to obtain his exact release date from the state Office of Corrections were unsuccessful.
Sharp was unsure of Shampine’s precise home address, in part because he never registered as a sex offender with the city or the parish.
On Sept. 10, Shampine allegedly robbed a convenience store at 30008 Walker North Road, making off with “lots and lots of cigarettes,” Sharp said. He described the incident as a strong-arm robbery and said Shampine did not have a weapon.
The same day, he took cash from a female he knew, the captain said. The aggravated battery charge stems from that incident.
“He roughed her up a bit,” he said.
Walker police have shared Shampine’s photo with the public. A little over a week ago, they got a report that placed him near the Amite River, but they weren’t able to find him at the time.
Thursday morning around 7:30 a.m., Sharp said, he was on the phone with a State Police investigator who was driving on Florida Avenue over the Amite River Bridge when the investigator asked for Shampine’s description.
They determined the investigator had seen their suspect on a sand bar in the river and began calling in backup.
The Walker, Denham Springs and Baton Rouge police departments, including a BRPD SWAT team, plus the East Baton Rouge Parish and Livingston Parish sheriff’s offices as well as State Police, Probation & Parole officers and a Dixon Correctional Institute canine chase team participated in Thursday’s manhunt.
“It’s a slow process. It’s a very thick, wooded area. It’s very swampy,” Sharp said.
There are other issues as well. Shampine could have called for help and gotten a ride past the police perimeter.
A railroad runs through the search area, and a train traveling about 25 mph passed through during the day.
“Could he have jumped on that train? Maybe,” the captain said.
Thursday afternoon, authorities had not determined how long the search would continue. Their law enforcement helicopters are equipped with infrared radar. The gear can find people based on their body heat and is more effective after the sun goes down, Sharp said.
Meanwhile, Livingston Schools Superintendent John Watson explained the decision to lock down about seven schools in Walker during Tuesday’s search. Administrators locked the perimeter doors and monitored entrance points, but classes continued as usual. He said the protocol lasted a little over an hour and was taken as a precautionary measure.