Jeremy Lackey, the 28-year-old former Marine arrested in the shooting of a Slidell police officer Friday night, doesn’t remember what happened during an armed confrontation in the city’s Olde Towne district, according to his attorney, Jeffrey Smith.
But the veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq was tearful during a Monday afternoon meeting with his lawyers, who said he is distressed over what he is accused of doing.
“The last thing he’d want to do is hurt an officer,” Smith said. “He’s just sad.”
Lackey is being held without bail at the St. Tammany Parish Jail, where he was booked on three counts of attempted murder of a police officer and one count of possessing a dangerous weapon. A bail hearing will be held Tuesday morning, Smith said.
Slidell police said Lackey opened fire on officers about 8:40 p.m. Friday after friends had ushered him out of the Olde Towne Tavern at First and Cousin streets, where he reportedly was picking fights.
Instead of leaving, however, Lackey got a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol from his motorcycle, police said. Officers who had arrived on the scene in response to a call from the bar ordered Lackey to drop his gun, but he ignored them and pointed the weapon toward the officers, police said.
He fired at least 10 rounds before Officer Justin Stokes, a K-9 officer, used his remote control to free Scout, a German shepherd that was in the police SUV that was under fire. The dog took Lackey down.
Sgt. Cliff Laigast was shot in the leg during the exchange of gunfire, but he was treated at a hospital and released. Laigast, who is an unpaid reserve officer, was back at his regular job Monday morning at Royal Golf Club.
Smith said he didn’t discuss the incident with Lackey but talked instead about the former Marine’s past.
The South Carolina native served two tours of duty in Iraq and sustained a traumatic brain injury when he was struck in the head, Smith said. He didn’t report the injury when it happened; instead, he immediately returned to duty, Smith said. But shortly thereafter, he had a blackout that lasted 24 hours and was described as global amnesia, Smith said.
Lackey left the Marine Corps in 2009 and lived in California before moving to St. Tammany Parish about four years ago, Smith said.
Ironically, he moved here to help a friend, a veteran who was having suicidal thoughts, attorney Catherine Rieder said.
Lackey was being treated at the VA hospital in New Orleans, where he had regular meetings with a psychiatrist and was on medication.
But Friday’s shootout was not the first sign that Lackey’s mental health issues were spiraling out of control. A little over a year ago, he posted a suicide threat on social media.
In December, the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office SWAT team went to his apartment near Slidell after a friend saw more worrisome statements from Lackey online, spokesman George Bonnett said. Deputies found him barricaded inside with a gun and bulletproof armor, but they were able to get him to come out without incident, and he underwent a mental health evaluation.
Lackey told his lawyer that he felt better after he was hospitalized in December.
But on Friday, he was writing more posts about his mental health struggles, saying he was in debt and had lost his vehicle and had been evicted.
“I have some severe mental issues that drag me down, and I can’t function without the medication, but it has all built up today. And I feel like crap. Just ready to be able to survive on my own two feet in life. Everytime I get up life knocks me back down, and I’m tired of falling on the concrete,” he posted.
He also said he was going to make “bad decisions.”
Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith described Lackey as someone who has been confrontational with law enforcement officials before and who, on Friday, was trying to kill his officers.
“There’s no excuse to grab a gun,” said Sgt. Daniel Seuzeneau, a department spokesman.
Smith was dismissive of suggestions that Lackey was acting on suicidal impulses, pointing out that he got behind a car during the exchange of fire. “If he wanted to die, he wouldn’t have taken cover,” the chief said.
He praised the restraint and bravery of the police involved — Laigast, Stokes and Officer Scott O’Shaughnessy — who he said protected the many people who were out that evening, including families with children at the Old Town Soda Shop and diners eating at Tacos and Beer. The businesses were full of people, the chief said. One man was emerging from Tacos and Beer with a to-go order of food as the shooting began and had to be warned to go back inside.
“It’s fortunate no one was killed,” Smith said.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.