As relatives of a man shot by a St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s deputy in Chalmette on Tuesday search for answers as to why he was killed, nearby residents have come forward to offer their accounts of a fatal encounter that also sent one deputy to the hospital with head wounds.
The State Police identified Tyrone Bass, of New Orleans, as the man killed in a confrontation with three deputies near the intersection of Gallo Drive and East St. Bernard Highway about 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Bass, 22, lived in Uptown New Orleans and worked as a temporary staffer in St. Bernard Parish, according to his aunt Keisha Washington.
State Police spokesman Trooper Evan Harrell said an initial investigation suggested that Bass stabbed one deputy in the back of the head with a railroad spike.
Officials have offered few other details about the altercation, including why Bass was confronted by police in the first place, and Harrell said little more would be released until the end of an investigation that could take months.
St. Bernard Sheriff James Pohlmann has yet to decide whether to release the names of the deputies involved, a spokesman said.
A woman standing across St. Bernard Highway from the interaction said she saw the confrontation between Bass and the deputies while she was outside her house smoking a cigarette.
Chantelle Dakin, 25, said she saw one deputy appear at the scene first, pulling his cruiser onto the side of an unnamed road that crosses over railroad tracks between Lisa Drive and Andres Street.
She said Bass was walking toward the deputy from a set of mobile homes on nearby Andres Street, and that the deputy told him repeatedly to drop whatever he was carrying and put his hands up.
“It seemed like a million times (the deputy) told him,” Dakin said. “But the man, he had a blank look on his face. He didn’t put his hands up; he didn’t drop anything.”
Dakin said she could not tell if Bass had a weapon.
Dakin said Bass continued walking until the deputy used a Taser on him, after which Bass dropped into a ditch running between St. Bernard Highway and parallel railroad tracks.
Two more deputies then arrived and told Bass to drop what he had in his hands, Dakin said, and the deputy who was the first to arrive fell into the ditch, as well.
“They all was really freaking out, you could hear it in their voices,” Dakin said. “They was telling him to drop it and put his hands up, but he was still on the ground, but I guess he was trying to get up.”
After that, “you heard about five or six shots and that was it, that was the end of it,” said Dakin, adding that she could not see which deputy actually shot Bass.
The injured deputy was taken to a hospital with head wounds, State Police said Tuesday. He was released within several hours.
Dakin said she believed the only witnesses to the full encounter besides her were a mailman who happened to be working his way down Lisa Drive and a family in a nearby mobile home. She said State Police interviewed all of them.
However, a man and a woman living in a different mobile home offered a sharply different version of the encounter. Both Laura Kraemer and her husband, David Walker, claimed that they walked outside after hearing two initial shots, then saw deputies shoot Bass two to three more times.
Dakin and the few details released by authorities about the incident cast doubt on that version of events.
Dakin said she was certain that Kraemer and Walker emerged from their home only after the shooting was over. Nor could Kraemer and Walker agree on every detail of what happened. Kraemer thought the dead man was white — Bass was black — and was standing when he was shot, while Walker insisted that he was on the ground.
St. Bernard Parish Coroner Bryan Bertucci said it could take several days before he receives the results of an autopsy being conducted in Orleans Parish. The results of that investigation could reveal how many times Bass was shot and where.
Bass’ aunt said authorities have told her family little about why he was shot.
Washington said Bass’ mother was notified he had been killed at 10 p.m., about eight hours after the shooting.
“I can’t even begin to think about what could have happened,” Washington said. “We don’t have a clue. I can’t even think of nothing.”
Washington said she last spoke to her nephew around Sunday over the phone. He sounded normal and agreed to help her move on Wednesday, she said. After graduating from high school in Dallas, she said, Bass recently returned to New Orleans in search of a job.
Orleans Parish court records show Bass was arrested earlier this month for theft and illegal possession of stolen items.
Washington said Bass’ father was killed when he was 5, the victim of a fast-food restaurant armed robbery gone wrong. Bass was the second-oldest of eight brothers and sisters on his mother’s side and five brothers and sisters on his father’s side, she said, and his death has left the family reeling.
“Nobody would have ever expected this to happen to him,” Washington said. “I wish he would have just stayed in Texas.”