The man accused of killing Lafayette police officer Michael Middlebrook legally purchased two guns last year within weeks of being involuntarily taken for mental health evaluation, according to court filings and testimony Tuesday in a daylong hearing.
The hearing before Judge Jules Edwards, of the 15th Judicial District Court, revealed new details about the defendant, Ian Howard, as well as the circumstances of Middlebrook’s shooting death and shooting injuries of other two people while responding to a call on Oct. 1 at the Big Boy Discount Zone on Moss Street.
Some of the testimony at the bail hearing, after which Edwards ruled that Howard is not eligible for bail, was questionable or contradictory, leaving an incomplete picture. Howard, who has been charged with first-degree murder, faces a possible death sentence on that count. He's also been charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder.
Witness Kinsky Edmond, for example, testified that Howard discussed the Las Vegas concert shooting that killed 58 people last year as the two men drove to the Big Boy convenience store. Edmond said Howard told him it was “a nice night to die,” after bringing up the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas shooting, however, occurred between one and two hours after police were called to the Big Boy store in north Lafayette. The Los Angeles Times reported that the first shots at the music festival occurred shortly after midnight local time. Police were called to the Lafayette crime scene about 10:30 p.m., according to State Police statements the day after the shooting.
State Police spokesman Brooks David said there have been no revisions to the previously reported time frame.
After the shooting, investigators discovered an AR-15 rifle with a retail purchase receipt, along with live ammunition, while executing a search warrant at Howard’s apartment in Lafayette, according to testimony by State Trooper Christopher Ledet, who led the investigation. They also found the box and receipt for the Smith and Wesson handgun that Howard took with him to the convenience store.
The receipt for the AR-15 shows it was purchased Jan. 21, 2017, Ledet testified. That was five days after Lafayette police detained Howard for evaluation because of his mental state on Jan. 16, 2017, in the wake of an alleged theft from Fresh Market on Kaliste Saloom Road.
A responding officer in the grocery theft, Jeffrey Suire, noted in his report that Howard “stated the FBI was trying to kill him,” according to an excerpt of the report in a defense motion filed Monday. Instead of arresting Howard, police transported him to University Hospital and Clinics “due to his mental state,” according to the police report cited in the motion.
Asked by defense attorney Stephen Singer why police didn’t seize the rifle while executing the search warrant after the shooting of Middlebrook, Ledet responded they had no basis to do so because there was no indication it was illegally obtained.
The receipt for the Smith and Wesson that Howard possessed at the Big Boy Discount Store showed it was purchased Feb. 11, less than a month after Howard was taken for mental evaluation, according to Ledet’s testimony.
Police discovered shell casings from three guns as the scene, Ledet said, including the service weapon of Lafayette police officer Logan Signater, who fired at Howard as he left. The third gun belongs to a store employee, and at some point Howard fired both his and the employee’s gun, Ledet said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to correct that Ian Howard was taken to a hospital for mental health evaluation; he was not formally committed for treatment.