A 52-year-old New Orleans man who authorities say fired at Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies and a federal agent, then was shot himself during a drug raid on his house on Feb. 26, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday on weapons, cocaine and assault charges.
Stephen Ellis already faced eight state counts of attempted first-degree murder, one for every officer nearby when he fired at least one shot during an early morning attempt by officers to breach the front door of his Pauger Street house.
The return fire came in a blaze. Dozens of bullets tore through the front and side of the house, shredding the walls, ceiling and appliances. Ellis was hit in the leg.
Two Jefferson Parish deputies, along with a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent, were the ones returning fire, according to authorities.
At the time, an ICE spokesman said only that the agent was at the house as part of a federal investigation, declining to elaborate.
Deputies, armed with a search warrant, came away from the scene with nearly a pound of cocaine in a freezer bag, a glass jar with marijuana, four handguns and more than $500 in cash.
The four-count indictment issued Thursday charges Ellis, who has prior cocaine and weapons convictions, with two weapons counts, including one for possessing guns in furtherance of drug trafficking; forcible assault on law enforcement; and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
Ellis’ attorney, Gregory Thompson, declined to comment, saying he hadn’t yet read the indictment. But Thompson said he expected the federal case against Ellis would replace the state charges.
A spokesman for Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office, which last week refused two of the eight attempted-murder counts against Ellis, did not immediately return a message.
Ellis’ wife, Leona, said in an earlier interview with The Advocate that the officers never announced themselves as law enforcement when they started bashing in the front door of the small house two blocks lakeside of North Claiborne Avenue.
“Nobody heard nothing,” she said during a tour of the bullet-riddled home. “Even after shots was fired, we still didn’t hear, ‘We the police!’ ”
Col. John Fortunato, spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, insisted that the officers “did announce their presence” while trying to breach a tightly secured front door.
In an application for the search warrant on 2427 Pauger St., Jefferson Parish Detective Steve Arnold wrote that a confidential informant tipped off police in mid-February that Ellis was a drug dealer.
Found inside the house were Stephen Ellis, Leona Ellis, Isabell Ellis and 11-year-old Stephen Ellis Jr., who slept in a bedroom that was untouched by the gunfire.
Leona Ellis said her husband had ratcheted up security after recent break-ins, installing two locks on the door and bracing it with a steel bar. Tiger, a pit bull, stood sentry on a chain out front. She described her husband as a “reformed crackhead” and insisted she knew of no drugs in the house other than marijuana.
Ellis’ criminal record includes several older drug convictions, a firearms possession count from 2009 and one for aggravated assault with a firearm in 2004.
According to the federal indictment, authorities found four semi-automatic handguns: two 9mm, one .380-caliber and one .45-caliber.
Police found a single spent 9mm shell casing on the kitchen floor.
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