State Police have almost completed their investigation into the shooting of a New Orleans man by a St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy and seem poised to declare his death a justifiable homicide.
Investigators have concluded that Tyrone Bass, 21, had smoked a synthetic cannabinoid at a frozen food plant in Violet several hours before he encountered three deputies on railroad tracks outside a mobile home complex in Chalmette on Sept. 15. A deputy shot Bass three times; he died on the scene.
The St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office invited State Police to investigate the incident shortly after it occurred.
Trooper Evan Harrell, a spokesman for the State Police, declined Thursday to reveal the results of the investigation, which he said is now in the hands of supervisors for their approval. But a detective’s search warrant filed in court on Sept. 23 described the case as a “Justifiable Homicide (Officer Involved Shooting).”
Bass’ mother still strongly rejects any attempt to deem her son’s death justified.
The search warrant, filed to obtain Bass’ medical records, outlines a chain of events that began at the Lafitte Frozen Food Corp. in Violet. Bass was working there through a temporary employment agency on the morning of the shooting.
Witnesses told State Police investigators that Bass seemed fine until a lunch break that came just after noon. At that point, one witness reportedly told police, Bass told him that he was going to smoke “mojo” — a nickname for synthetic cannabinoids. The National Institute on Drug Abuse warns that such drugs can be “can be considerably more powerful and more dangerous than marijuana.”
Within 15 minutes, witnesses purportedly told police, Bass began “flipping out.” He supposedly started screaming, dancing, cursing and shouting profanities.
An employee at the plant confirmed that investigators had interviewed staffers there, but declined to comment further.
Bass apparently began walking back toward New Orleans, where he lived. Roughly two hours later, Bass was spotted walking along railroad tracks near the corner of East St. Bernard Highway and Lisa Drive in Chalmette. The warrant signed by State Police Detective Raymond Hughes states that Bass was gripping two railroad spikes, one in each hand.
The first deputy to stop Bass said that he “appeared to be angry and elected to perform an investigatory stop.”
Bass allegedly flexed his arms while holding the spikes and refused to drop them, then came toward the deputy and said, “Let’s do this!” The deputy shot Bass with a Taser, according to the warrant, and he fell to the ground face down.
At that point, police assert, two other deputies arrived. When one of the newly arrived deputies attempted to grab Bass’s arms, according to Hughes’s investigation, “Bass was able to grab the deputy and pull him to the ground.” Hughes wrote that Bass began stabbing the deputy in the head with one of the spikes and that the deputy, “fearing for his life, responded by unholstering his duty weapon and shooting Bass.”
The account in Hughes’ warrant largely corresponds with that of witness Chantelle Dakin, who watched the encounter from her home across the street. She said shortly after the shooting that Bass appeared to be in an altered state.
State Police do not appear to have interviewed two other nearby residents who claim to have witnessed part of the encounter. Laura Kraemer and her husband, David Walker, live in a mobile home on Lisa Drive and say they first heard deputies shoot two times, then opened their door after a pause and saw them shoot him several more times.
Kraemer and Walker’s accounts differed in other respects, however, and Dakin was adamant that the pair opened their door only after the shooting. Walker said Thursday that neither member of the couple had been interviewed.
Bass’s mother, Shequila Bass, said she had told State Police in the immediate aftermath of the shooting that her son had once used “mojo” roughly a year before the incident.
But Bass said her son had not used the drug since, and rejected the suggestion that it could justify shooting him.
“You Tased him, you shot him several times, you beat him. And I knew he was beaten, because I saw his body at the funeral home,” Bass said. “My child is not how they’re portraying him to be. Nobody’s perfect, but nobody’s supposed to die like that. And no parent should ever have to bury their child.”
Bass also questioned why police have taken more than two months to conclude their investigation. She said she has been given few answers about the shooting from either State Police and the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office. When she went to file a complaint about the shooting with the sheriff’s office, she said, she was told that an internal affairs investigator was out of the office.
The investigators later called her back and promised to mail her a written form that she could complete, Bass said, but it has yet to arrive.
Sheriff James Pohlmann said he would take steps to ensure that Bass could file the complaint.
“I can facilitate a meeting with internal affairs and herself pretty quick, if she would like,” Pohlmann said. “She shouldn’t be getting the runaround, and nobody should be getting the runaround if they file a complaint.”
Pohlmann declined to comment on the State Police investigation until it is finalized. Bass said she will continue searching for answers.
“Justice will be served,” said Bass. “Whether it’s through the judicial system or God.”