The teenage daughter of a Port Allen man who was fatally shot by a West Baton Rouge deputy called for answers into her father’s death Wednesday, nearly a week after authorities executing a "no-knock" search warrant burst through the door of the motel room.
Ja'Kera Richardson’s father, Josef Richardson, 38, was fatally shot in the back of the neck last Thursday while deputies were serving the warrant for alleged drug activity at the Budget 7 Motel, a few miles north of Port Allen. Authorities have not said why one of the deputies, whose identity has not been released, shot him.
"I don't want anybody to stop fighting," said Ja'Kera Richardson, 13, as her small voice carried to some 200 people gathered in front of the West Baton Rouge courthouse during a Wednesday afternoon rally. "If you think this shouldn't be right, then keep fighting for it."
The demonstration comes a day after the release of an autopsy that found Richardson suffered a single gunshot wound that pierced his neck, severed a vital part of his spinal cord and severely damaged the base of his skull.
Those findings were met by the chants — "a bullet to the back of the head, what else needs to be said?" — as well as calls for the deputy's arrest.
Benjamin Crump, a prominent civil rights attorney who has worked on several high-profile police shooting cases, is representing Richardson's family. He called for immediate answers from authorities, and vowed to return next month if no action is taken.
"What we want is transparency," Crump said. "And most importantly, we're demanding the truth."
Ronald Haley Jr., a Baton Rouge attorney also representing the family, exhorted the group to take their frustrations to the voting booth in October if their demands aren't met.
His statement was met by chants from the crowd. "Vote them out!" they yelled.
The Louisiana State Police is investigating the shooting and plans to forward its findings to the district attorney's office.
The agency urged the public to be patient as it continues to investigate, a process that in past police shootings has sometimes taken months to conclude.
"There is no room for error when we are working to gather all of the facts," State Police said in a statement following the rally. "The premature release of information can in fact affect the totality of the investigation."
A spokesman for the West Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office said the department recused itself from the investigation, a long-time practice that’s been in place for incidents involving its officers.
Haley criticized the process, saying the arrangement falls short of an impartial review. He called for the creation of a separate agency to review cases involving police use of force. “The police can’t police the police,” he said.
Officials declined to name the deputy after he reportedly received death threats, though the sheriff’s office hasn’t officially named him.
State Police have released few details since the night of the shooting, but a warrant made publicly available Wednesday shows the raid stemmed from suspected drug activity at the motel.
The warrant cites a confidential informant who told detectives about buying methamphetamine from a man in Room 5.
Deputies arrested Richardson’s girlfriend, Jessica Ellen Clouatre, 39, and wrote in an arrest report charging her with a handful of drug-related offenses that she was in the motel room when Richardson was shot. Those documents do not reference the shooting or say if authorities recovered a weapon.
Clouatre's attorney, Stephen Smith, told The Advocate that she couldn't speak about what happened because she is facing a pair of felony drug-sale charges.
He affirmed that she was in the room and saw the shooting, which happened after deputies kicked in the door.
District Judge Tonya S. Lurry signed the warrant ahead of the search, which allowed deputies to enter the room without announcing themselves. Detectives wrote that drugs can easily be concealed, making it necessary to storm the room without warning.
Records show Richardson had a handful of drug-related convictions and was sentenced to five years in prison following a 2012 felony conviction for selling marijuana.
Ja'Kera Richardson acknowledged her father's past legal troubles but stressed that he was not a violent person and didn’t own guns.
She said despite his past and allegations about his recent alleged activity, her dad shouldn’t have been killed.
“I don’t want my dad to be an unsolved crime,” she said.