A Louisiana State Police trooper has been suspended 14 weeks without pay for his role in a fatal crash in Pointe Coupee Parish in which he had been driving 111 mph — more than twice the posted speed limit.
The disciplinary action, decided last week, comes about four months after a grand jury declined to charge the trooper, Christopher R. Kelley, with negligent homicide in the death of 64-year-old Henry Baise.
The Louisiana State Police have determined that a trooper involved in a fatal crash last mon…
The grand jury did cite Kelley for speeding and careless operation. He began serving his suspension on Monday and will not return to active duty until Nov. 20.
A lengthy State Police investigation determined the fatal crash had been preventable, but that it ultimately was caused by Baise's failure to yield as he turned onto U.S. 190. Nevertheless, Baise's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit claiming the trooper's negligence was to blame for the crash.
"It's shocking," Todd Comeaux, an attorney for Baise's family, said of the grand jury's decision to not charge the trooper with negligent homicide.
The crash happened about 10:40 a.m. on Feb. 22 in Lottie, about 35 miles west of Baton Rouge. Kelley, who is assigned to the State Police's Alexandria-based Troop E, had been driving his police unit to New Orleans that day to work a Mardi Gras detail. He was not on duty or responding to an emergency call at the time of the crash, but State Police determined he had been trying to catch up to another trooper, Michael Satcher, and was driving 111 mph as he crossed the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge.
Kelley was still driving 110 mph just two-and-half seconds before the crash, but a prosecutor said he slammed on the brakes, slowing to 79 mph at the point of impact. Kelley's dashboard camera stopped recording moments before the impact because it had been buffering, according to a State Police report.
Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton, who presented the case to the grand jury, said Kelley had the right of way even though he was speeding. He said Baise had made an illegal left turn onto U.S. 190 as he pulled out of a gas station and into the pathway of the trooper.
Baise's family disagreed, arguing in their wrongful death lawsuit that Baise "in no way" contributed to the crash. The State Police report found that Baise's Chevrolet Silverado briefly failed to gain traction as he pulled out of the parking lot, but that the vehicle was travelling 22 mph one second before the collision.
Baise was wearing a seat belt but was seriously injured in the crash. He was pronounced dead at Pointe Coupee General Hospital in New Roads.
Kelley, who was hired by State Police in 2015, received moderate injuries in the crash. An internal investigation concluded he violated department policy in the crash.
Clayton, the prosecutor, said the grand jury reviewed a "brutally honest" State Police investigation and even heard testimony from Baise's family before rendering its decision.
"They did the right thing," Clayton said. "The grand jury heard everything."
Advocate staff writer Terry Jones contributed to this report.