LAKE CHARLES — The man accused of gunning down a Louisiana state trooper who stopped to offer him roadside assistance spent much of the past two decades in and out of prison, including a stint for setting his mother’s house on fire.
Burglary. Assault. Arson. A string of DWIs. Kevin Daigle’s criminal history, provided to The Associated Press by law enforcement officials across two parishes in southwest Louisiana, was lengthy.
He’d only been out of jail since March.
Alcohol was the switch, according to Daigle’s sister-in-law.
“Kevin was a good person until he started drinking. When he started drinking, he went bonkers,” said Diane Daigle. “All his life he was like that. The first drink he took in his mouth, it took everything out of him and he became like a Jekyll and a Hyde.”
Police suspect Daigle, 53, had been drinking when they say he shot Senior Trooper Steven Vincent on Sunday evening. Vincent had stopped to offer Daigle help because his truck was in a ditch, but authorities say dashboard camera footage shows Daigle came out with a shotgun when approached. Vincent died from the gunshot wound Monday.
Daigle also is suspected by officials in the death of another man with whom he was staying for the past few months.
By the time he was taken into custody in Vincent’s shooting death, Daigle had been well known by law enforcement across Calcasieu and Jefferson Davis parishes in southwest Louisiana.
He’d been arrested a dozen times. He’d been accused of criminal damage to property back in 1997; burglarizing a church in 2001; assaulting a police officer in 2003; multiple counts of driving while intoxicated over the years; and disturbing the peace and arson in 2012, according to criminal records detailed by law enforcement officials across both parishes.
“Two-thirds of his life in the last 18 years was spent incarcerated,” said Michael Cassidy, the district attorney whose office prosecuted Daigle for crimes in Jefferson Davis Parish.
He’d only been free since March, when he served a few days in jail for disturbing the peace by intoxication, a misdemeanor.
Before that, he’d served nearly two years in prison from 2012 to 2014 for a felony arson conviction and parole revocation for a third-offense DWI, according to the state corrections department. The arson conviction, Cassidy said, “that one involved starting his mother’s house on fire.”
“He burned his old mother’s house. He had told me he did it. When I told on him, he threatened me. He threatened my son, threatened to burn his house down with his kids in it,” Diane Daigle said. “That’s when he was drinking. When he was drinking or messed up. But any other time he’d have given you the shirt on his back.”
Kevin Daigle was apprehended Sunday evening by Robert LeDoux, who told AP he tackled Daigle after he saw the man riffling through the pockets of a bloodied state trooper and trying to take the officer’s handgun out of its holster. Three other men helped LeDoux handcuff and hold on to Daigle until police arrived.
Daigle was booked on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated battery of a police officer.
Authorities also suspect Daigle in the death of 54-year-old Blake L. Brewer, whose body was found Monday at a Moss Bluff house where Daigle had been living. Daigle “led investigators to believe an altercation occurred between him and Brewer which led to Brewer’s death,” the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office said.
Daigle had his first hearing Tuesday, in the jail where he’s been detained. The Sheriff’s Office said Daigle requested an attorney. His public defender didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
As police continued to gather evidence at Brewer’s house, State Police offered somber details of when and where they’ll bury one of their own.
Vincent’s funeral will be Saturday at a Catholic church in Lake Charles, with burial in nearby Lacassine.
And Daigle’s family struggled to cope with his arrest.
“It’s hard for us to believe that he did this. We’re under a big cloud. It hurts. We all grew up in this area — everybody’s family and friends. They’re all telling us how bad they feel for the family,” Diane Daigle said. “We just can’t believe that he did something like that. But yet, we were always scared that he might do something.”