A man who was shot at Sunday by a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy while escaping from University Medical Center in New Orleans was named Monday as a suspect in the armed robbery of a Belle Chasse convenience store.
Authorities released new details, meanwhile, of the events that led Deputy Staci Penwright to shoot several times at 26-year-old Domonique Battle inside the hospital and outside on Canal Street. Battle was not injured and was arrested shortly after his escape.
The incident was the second time JPSO deputies have been involved in a shooting in Orleans Parish in as many months. Last month, two deputies shot and killed 22-year-old Eric Harris in Central City after a car chase that began in Gretna.
The Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office said the chain of events that led to Sunday’s shooting incident started when a man detectives later identified as Battle walked into a convenience store in the 7800 block of La. 23 about 10:45 p.m. Wednesday. The man produced a gun and ordered the clerk to give him money from the register, the Sheriff’s Office said. He then fled on foot.
Cmdr. Eric Becnel, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said detectives believe Battle needed money to support a drug habit.
On Thursday night, a bail bonds company surrendered Battle, who was wanted for missing a court date on an unrelated charge, to the custody of the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center.
Col. John Fortunato, a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, said that as deputies booked Battle, he appeared to be trying to hide something. A strip search turned up two plastic bags containing a small amount of heroin and a small amount of crack cocaine that had been hidden in Battle’s buttocks, according to an arrest record.
Later that night, Fortunato said, Battle told jail guards that he had ingested heroin and asked to go to the hospital. He was taken to University Medical Center to be treated just before midnight Thursday.
The Plaquemines Sheriff’s Office, meanwhile, was still investigating the armed robbery at the convenience store. Becnel said a Crimestoppers tipster identified Battle as the armed robber on Saturday morning, and a warrant was obtained for his arrest on an armed robbery count.
Neither parish’s deputies told Battle he was wanted for the armed robbery, Becnel said. But, he said, “I’m sure he did know that he was a suspect.”
Penwright, a seven-year veteran of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office who serves as a correctional officer, was watching Battle at the hospital on Sunday morning.
Law enforcement agents are barred from bringing service weapons into an inpatient area of the hospital managed by the state Department of Corrections. But Siona LaFrance, a spokeswoman for University Medical Center, said Penwright and Battle were in an area of the hospital that is not under that restriction.
“We do not restrict law enforcement personnel from having their service weapons when they are guarding or protecting an offender who is undergoing treatment at UMC,” LaFrance said.
New Orleans police said Battle tried to escape about 8:20 a.m. Sunday. Penwright ran after him and found him in a stairwell, according to an arrest warrant obtained by NOPD Detective Michael McCleery.
Police said Battle tried to grab Penwright’s gun during the struggle but ended up with her Taser instead.
At some point during the struggle, police said, the deputy fired several shots at Battle both inside the hospital and outside on Canal Street. The shots missed, and Battle was able to escape.
An onlooker spotted him on the loose and called police. Battle was arrested not far from the hospital near the corner of North Miro and Iberville streets.
Battle has been booked on counts of aggravated escape and battery of a police officer in Orleans Parish. A Criminal District Court magistrate judge set his bail there at $40,000 on Monday.
Meanwhile, Battle was in custody at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna on Monday.
The Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office said he would be transferred to its custody to be booked in connection with the Belle Chasse armed robbery.