Six Baton Rouge police officers found themselves in a firefight on Washington Avenue late Saturday that left one man wounded and neighbors ducking for cover.
In the span of a few short moments, a 28-year-old man crashed his van into a parked car and then a house, fired gunshots at police as he sprinted through a nearby lawn and continued firing even after he was shot and fell to the ground, a witness said.
The man, who has not been identified, is being treated in a hospital for moderate injuries.
The encounter began about 9:45 p.m. Saturday when a woman living in the 5200 block of Jackson Avenue called police after she received threatening text messages from an acquaintance, said Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a Baton Rouge police spokesman.
But while the officers, some veterans and some new who were riding along to gain experience, were at her house, the man who sent the messages drove past them then sped away when they gave chase, McKneely said.
The man turned onto Washington Avenue just a block south of Jackson and almost struck a neighbor who was walking in the street — the neighbor said she dove into her yard to avoid the speeding vehicle.
As the man continued down Washington, he lost control of his car. The van trampled through a home’s chain-link fence, smashed into the front fender of a parked white sedan and finally halted when it slammed into the home itself, cracking bricks in the home’s front façade.
Inside the home and just feet from the car’s impact, Lois Isaac, 54, was watching TV with her 30-year-old son when she said she heard a commotion and a loud boom, and suddenly she was thrown off her couch onto the floor.
She emerged from her home to see a man wiggling through a van’s window and out of the vehicle and then saw him run away.
The man made it about 10 yards when he turned while running and opened fire on the officers, who had stopped in the middle of the road and aimed their weapons at him, said the neighbor who had dived out of the way. She declined to be identified for fear for her safety.
As police fired back, Isaac’s son tackled his mother to the floor of their home to protect her, and several shots later, the shooter fell to the ground in a yard at the corner of Washington Avenue and Bahm Street, the neighbor said.
But the injured shooter then scooted across the yard holding onto his gun as officers shouted at him to drop his weapon, the neighbor said. After a minute of arguing, the man fired again, and officers fired back at least 10 times, the neighbor said.
“It was like we were in a war,” said Victoria Matthews, 31, who heard the shots from her home just behind Isaac’s.
The shooter was taken to a hospital with moderate injuries and will be booked into Parish Prison once he is released, Mckneely said.
Police declined to release the suspect’s name until he is booked into jail, he said.
“They gave him chance after chance after chance after chance,” the neighbor said. “He wanted to die like he had death on him, and I just don’t understand. It’s crazy. Like, wow.”
No one else was injured in the shooting, but the six officers were placed on administrative leave as part of the department’s normal protocols, McKneely said. It is not yet clear how many of them fired their guns. There were more officers than usual because new officers were riding with experienced officers, he said.
The neighbor also said there was a second man who climbed out of the suspect’s car, started running down the street and tried to scale a nearby fence, but McKneely said no one else was arrested in the incident.
On Saturday morning, there was still evidence of a wreck at Isaac’s home. She stood in her yard with smashed bits of brick around her, along with mangled fencing and chips of plastic scattered from an automobile. She remembers an officer giving her a card and saying someone would clean up the debris, but she isn’t sure that will happen.
“I assume I’m left to do that,” she said.
Follow Daniel Bethencourt on Twitter: @_dbethencourt.