For the second time in two weeks, a driver has been arrested on a count of attempted murder of a police officer after a Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputy shot at a moving vehicle.
The most recent shooting, which occurred in Marrero on Thursday, arose from a domestic violence incident. It resulted in no injuries, according to the Sheriff’s Office, but marked another use of a tactic that some departments have banned because of the potential harm to bystanders.
About 2 a.m., 3rd District Patrol Officer Andre Nelson responded to the scene of a domestic disturbance in the 2000 block of James Drive, according to JPSO spokesman Col. John Fortunato.
Christopher Videau, 40, led Nelson on a foot chase that ended after several blocks when Videau hopped into the rear seat of a waiting vehicle, Fortunato said. As Nelson approached the vehicle, he said, driver Phillip Norman accelerated toward him.
Nelson fired one shot that struck the driver’s door, Fortunato said, but neither man in the car was injured. The car then came to a stop several houses away. Norman was immediately apprehended, and Videau was arrested several blocks away after fleeing again, according to Fortunato.
“(Nelson) was attempting to move out of the vehicle’s path as he fired,” Fortunato said. “The officer felt that his life was in danger, and that’s what caused him to fire the shot. And once he fired the shot, that’s when the vehicle quickly slowed.”
Videau was taken to the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center and booked on counts of domestic battery and resisting arrest.
His alleged getaway driver, Norman, was booked on attempted murder of a police officer and resisting arrest.
Both men had lengthy criminal histories, according to the Sheriff’s Office, and Videau was on parole for drug and weapons charges.
The Marrero incident was strikingly similar to one on June 28 that also involved a deputy shooting at a moving vehicle.
In that incident, Officer Whaland Shepherd shot at Hassan Henry, 17, who was driving his pickup truck toward him just before the Terry Parkway on-ramp to the Crescent City Connection, authorities said. Henry and a passenger, 16, were able to escape over the bridge into New Orleans, where they were apprehended.
Henry was booked on attempted first-degree murder of a police officer, records show.
Fortunato said sheriff’s deputies can shoot at moving vehicles “anytime someone feels that their life is in immediate danger and it follows our use-of-force policy.”
Other departments, however, have barred officers from shooting at moving vehicles in many cases, and at least one expert cautioned that the practice should be used as seldom as possible.
Police in Denver banned shooting at moving cars unless someone inside the vehicle is shooting after the controversial January death of Jessica Hernandez, 17, sparked protests. Cleveland police instituted a similar policy after officers shot at two unarmed suspects in a car 137 times.
“It’s very problematic when police officers shoot at moving vehicles, for a variety of reasons,” said Jim Bueermann, a 33-year veteran of the Redlands Police Department in California who is now president of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Police Foundation.
“It’s hard to hit a car that’s moving, especially if it’s traveling fast,” said Bueermann. “If you do strike the driver, then you have a 2,000-pound projectile that is now unmanned and essentially out of control. If you’re able to disable it by blowing out the tires, now you have an out-of-control, 2,000-pound projectile that can endanger yourself or bystanders.”
In neither of the recent Jefferson Parish cases did deputies either injure a vehicle’s occupants or disable the vehicle, according to Sheriff’s Office accounts.
Bueermann said officers should consider whether the vehicles are carrying other passengers, as they were in both of the recent local cases, and whether bystanders are around. He also said departments should make an effort to review training and policies after shooting incidents.
Fortunato said both recent shootings would go through after-action reviews.