ST. MARTINVILLE, (AP) — Prosecutors in Louisiana on Friday ruled out criminal charges in the death of a mentally ill man who was shot and killed during a confrontation with sheriff’s deputies last year.
Assistant District Attorney Chester Cedars, the chief prosecutor in St. Martin Parish, announced that his office determined charges aren’t warranted after reviewing evidence gathered by State Police investigators.
A State Police report said 32-year-old Michael Noel was killed on Dec. 21 during a struggle inside his family’s home in St. Martinville when he resisted deputies’ efforts to take him into protective custody and drive him to a hospital. St. Martinville is about 60 miles southwest of Baton Rouge.
“His shooting was not the product of any evil or malicious intent, but rather, was a reasonable reaction to an extraordinarily intense and volatile situation which was brought on, solely and exclusively, by Michael’s conduct,” Cedars wrote in a 20-page memo provided to The Associated Press.
In March, Noel’s relatives sued St. Martin Parish Sheriff Ronald Theriot and the two deputies involved in the deadly encounter. Their suit claims Noel’s shooting was unprovoked and the result of poor training and supervision by the sheriff’s office.
Noel’s mother, Barbara Noel, and aunt, Sable Alex, have said he wasn’t armed and wasn’t a threat to the deputies. The family’s lawsuit says a deputy shocked Noel with a stun gun twice before fatally shooting him.
Cedars’ memo says Michael Noel struck Sgt. Pittard Chapman, chipping one of his teeth, during a brief struggle moments before the shooting.
“As Michael started to re-engage, Sgt. Chapman, finding himself trapped at the front door of the residence, discharged his service revolver, striking Michael in the left forearm and the center of his chest,” Cedars wrote, adding that Chapman “apparently could not escape Michael’s onslaught.”
Michael Noel had paranoid schizophrenia and had been grappling with mental illness since he was a child, according to his mother.
The day of the shooting marked the fourth time in less than eight months that Barbara Noel had obtained an order for deputies to take her son into protective custody so he could get treatment. The orders say he had been suicidal, hallucinating, hearing voices and talking to imaginary people.
On Dec. 14, a week before the shooting, a deputy responded to a “mental complaint” at the Noel family’s home and spoke to Michael, who said he “speaks to Jesus Christ,” an incident report says. The report says the matter was referred to the sheriff’s Crisis Intervention Team.
The family’s lawsuit — filed in state court on behalf of Noel’s mother, his ex-girlfriend and their three children — claims it was “reasonably foreseeable” that the deadly confrontation would occur given what happened on Dec. 14.
Noel’s relatives have said they believe race was a factor in the confrontation. Noel was black and both deputies are white, they said.
Barbara Noel said her son, at 5-foot-6 and roughly 130 pounds, couldn’t have overpowered the two deputies. She and Alex gave different accounts of what happened after one of the deputies shocked Michael Noel twice with a stun gun.
Alex said Michael, shaking from the stun gun’s jolts, began shuffling toward one of the deputies, who told him to stop before shooting from several feet away. Noel, however, said the deputy was standing behind her son when he reached over Michael’s right shoulder, pointed the gun downward at his chest and shot him at point-blank range.
Noel recalled screaming, “They killed him! They killed him!” after her son collapsed and died on the floor without saying a word.
“They never gave him no CPR. They never said they were sorry. They just wanted us out of the house,” she told The Associated Press in January.