A New Orleans man killed by an unidentified St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy last week was shot three times, St. Bernard Coroner Bryan Bertucci said Monday.
State Police said Tyrone Bass stabbed a deputy in the back of the head with a railroad spike in Chalmette before Bass was killed Sept. 15.
But authorities have released few other details about the fatal encounter between three deputies and Bass, underscoring the wide discretion law enforcement agencies have in deciding what to disclose at a time when police shootings are under a microscope nationally.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Steve Cannizaro said he could not release the names of the deputies involved or how long they have worked for the agency. Nor would he say whether those deputies have been placed on desk duty, as is standard practice in many law enforcement agencies after fatal shootings.
“The Sheriff’s Office is declining to comment on anything involving this case,” Cannizaro said. “The State Police is handling it.”
Bertucci declined to say whether the bullet entry wounds were on Bass’ front, side or back. A toxicology report is still pending.
Trooper Evan Harrell of the State Police has said no more information will be released for now, including whether any of the confrontation off East St. Bernard Highway was caught on video.
Other local police agencies have been more forthcoming recently after officers used their weapons.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office promptly released the name of the deputy who killed a machete-wielding man at Louis Armstrong International Airport in March, and the New Orleans Police Department quickly identified two officers involved in shooting a robbery suspect at a Dollar General store in New Orleans East in April.
Police agencies across the country are sharply divided on whether to routinely release such names, and there appears to be no uniform standard in Louisiana. None of the three agencies involved in a Saturday shooting of a man on Interstate 10 in Slidell have released the names of their deputies or officers.
Rafael Goyeneche, president of the watchdog Metropolitan Crime Commission, said that releasing the names of officers involved in shootings is “optional; it’s not mandatory.”
St. Bernard Sheriff James Pohlmann must balance the public’s right to know against the fear of having deputies’ names “stained with the stigma of an investigation that may not uncover any wrongdoing,” Goyeneche said.
He said the best option may be to wait until the State Police investigation concludes and then to release the names of the deputies involved. The Sheriff’s Office has not said if it plans to eventually release those names.
One police reform advocate, on the other hand, said she believes those names should be released as soon as feasible.
“You’ve got to get out more information about what’s going on in these cases, or else you’re going to have problems with the public if you’re not transparent about things,” said Susan Hutson, the independent police monitor in New Orleans.
Hutson acknowledged a need to allow officers some advance notice before their names are thrust into the spotlight, but she said she believes releasing those names is critical in part because it allows the public to determine whether an officer has a pattern of misconduct.
“You have a right to know what your public servants are doing, and who they are,” she said.