More than 20 witnesses have been summoned for court testimony in the case against Ian Howard, who is accused of fatally shooting a Lafayette police officer and wounding three other people.
Howard’s lawyers want to suppress statements he made in the immediate aftermath of the 2017 shootings, claiming he was illegally arrested and interrogated. Prosecutors say an officer whom Howard shot at identified Howard as the suspect prior to his arrest, and that he was apprehended after fleeing.
Prosecutors also say Howard voluntarily placed himself at the scene during the arrest, without interrogation or other prompting. Interrogation began only after Howard was read his Miranda rights, they say.
The hearing on the defense motion is scheduled for Wednesday and could unfold over several days.
Howard was apprehended in a coulee near the north Lafayette convenience store where, in a convoluted series of events, he shot and killed Cpl. Michael Middlebrook and wounded three others. Another officer was among the shooting victims who survived.
Defense lawyers with the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center do not dispute that Howard was the shooter, but they argue he is not guilty because mental illness prevented him from distinguishing between right and wrong.
Prosecutors say Howard, without prompting, volunteered to the arresting officers that the shooter was “a Black guy,” admitting he was at the scene. Officers ordered Howard to be quiet, and did not ask any questions, prosecutors say.
Defense lawyers say Howard was informed of his right to remain silent only after being interrogated, and that he did not voluntarily waive that right. They also claim Howard was beaten in the head once in custody; his booking photo shows him in a head bandage.
Prosecutors say Howard’s resistance and attempts to escape justified the force. They also say he threatened to kill medical staff while in custody.
Summoned witnesses include medical staff, law enforcement officers and others in Howard’s orbit on the night of the shootings. The marathon hearing could elicit new information about what happened that night.
Filings and testimony thus far have shown that Howard drove to the store with a friend, who allegedly had no idea what Howard would do when they got there. Howard used his own gun to shoot two civilians, then left and returned to the scene. He accompanied Middlebrook to the store entrance, whereupon he allegedly snatched a store employee’s gun, killed Middlebrook, and wounded the other officer in a shootout.
Howard is technically being tried in two cases, with the first being on three counts of attempted murder. Trial in that case is set for April 2022, a capital murder trial in Middlebrook’s death will follow. Many of the legal and procedural questions are being worked out in the first case.