St. Tammany deputies involved in fatal shooting returned to regular duties; investigation ongoing _lowres

Joshua Dale Douglas

The family of a man fatally shot by a St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office deputy in March 2016 has filed a federal lawsuit against the deputy and the agency, court records show.

Richard Douglas, the father of Joshua Dale Douglas, and Jessica Sheppard, a woman in the car with Joshua Dale Douglas when he was shot, are lead plaintiffs in the suit. Three other people, including two children, identified only by their initials, also are listed as plaintiffs.

The suit alleges that deputies grossly overreacted to a report of a car with a stolen license plate driving on La. 59 north of Interstate 12. It does acknowledge that when a deputy saw the car and tried to pull it over, Douglas refused to stop. 

After a chase of less than 15 minutes, Douglas crashed the Infiniti sedan into a ditch north of I-12. There, stories of what happened diverge.

Deputies said, and a State Police investigation concluded, that as deputies approached the wrecked car with guns drawn, Douglas yelled that he had a gun and threatened to kill Sheppard. 

“I have a (expletive) gun and I’m going to (expletive) kill her,” Douglas yelled, the State Police report says.

But according to the suit, Douglas never threatened Sheppard. The suit also alleges that Deputy Matthew DePhillips fired the fatal shot "immediately" after opening the rear passenger door. 

Deputies "never gave Joshua or Jessica any opportunity to comply or surrender," the suit says.

After the shooting, a deputy forcibly pulled Sheppard out of the car and threw her to the ground on her stomach despite her pregnancy, the suit says. She was then placed in a car and it was only 12 minutes later that paramedics were called to tend to her, though not to Douglas, the suit says.

That delay may have been crucial, the suit alleges, because Douglas was alive after being shot. It cites a report that there was blood in his lungs, meaning he was breathing after he was shot.

A Sheriff's Office spokesman said it would have no comment on the suit.  

Douglas' shooting was the third fatal shooting by St. Tammany deputies in a seven-month span. Lucien Rolland was shot after a chase in September 2015, and Darien Greenwood was shot a month later after a foot pursuit that ended when he allegedly stabbed a police dog. Both of those shootings were investigated internally by the Sheriff's Office, then led by longtime Sheriff Jack Strain. 

Greenwood's father also has filed a suit. That suit is still pending.

Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.