A Baton Rouge police officer has died from injuries sustained when a pickup truck plowed into his motorcycle during a funeral procession late Friday afternoon — about a year after the same officer was shot in the face while responding to a call in south Baton Rouge.
Baton Rouge police posted on their social media accounts that the officer had died shortly before 6 p.m.
He was identified as Cpl. Shane Totty, 31, who had recovered from critical injuries last year after a man experiencing a mental health crisis shot into Totty's police unit. The officer had made a full recovery and had returned to work several months ago.
The accident occurred around 2:40 p.m. in the 6400 block of Jones Creek Road when a pickup truck pulled out of an apartment complex and struck Totty's motorcycle while he was escorting a funeral procession. It's unclear at this point whether the driver will face charges.
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The Baton Rouge Union of Police posted on its Facebook page that Totty was going into surgery with critical injuries a little before 4 p.m. He was pronounced dead just hours later.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said in a news conference Friday evening that Totty's death "highlights how our police officers put their lives on the line every day."
"Our officers are mourning today," Paul said. "This is a tragedy for us. … He was a really bright young man. He had a bright future with the police department."
'Such a sad irony'
Totty joined the Baton Rouge Police Department in June 2014 and was assigned to the department's uniform patrol division.
He was severely injured in February 2018 when Eugene Thomas Jr., 34, fired multiple shots into the windshield of his police unit. Thomas first shot at three of his family members and a friend on Thomas H. Delpit Drive and then drove off. When Totty found Thomas in the 900 block of Lettsworth, Thomas turned his gun on the responding officer.
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Totty's colleagues in the department described him then as always smiling, easygoing and never one to complain.
Paul, who took over as chief last January, said the first time he met Totty was when he was hospitalized after the shooting. Paul said he was impressed with the young officer's spirit and his determination to return to the force.
Capt. Don Kelly, who oversaw Totty's squad as Second District commander before his retirement last year, said the tragedy of Totty's death is compounded because the officer had just recovered — with "remarkable inner strength and calmness" — from a near death experience.
Kelly said Totty had suffered long and extensive complications from his injuries, including complete loss of sight in one of his eyes that lasted for some time. He ultimately regained his vision but never lost his desire to rejoin the force.
Totty returned to work several months after the shooting and immediately requested to be transferred to the department's motorcycle division.
"He loved motorcycles. That was his dream," Kelly said. "He was doing what he loved. … It's such a sad irony after what happened and everything he went through — it's just cruel. It's unbelievable. It's heartbreaking."
Kelly said Totty's fiance had given birth to their baby daughter not long before he was shot. The couple had been engaged for a while and were finally planning a wedding in the months before his death.
"Life was good for him. He had survived this near death experience and everything was positive and going his way," Kelly said. "How tragic that everything could be taken away in the blink of an eye. We're all hurting."
Totty is the second Louisiana law enforcement officer to die in a motorcycle crash during a funeral procession within the past several months. Slidell police officer Jason Seals died in November under similar circumstances.
The last Baton Rouge motorcycle officer killed in the line of duty was Cpl. Chris Metternich who died in 2006 after a drunk driver failed to yield while making a turn on South Sherwood Forest Boulevard, according to Advocate reports at the time. Metternich was the department's sixth officer killed on duty while riding a motorcycle.
From the scene
The motorcycle was seen lying on its side in the road next to a black pickup truck with significant damage to its front end. The truck appeared to have been pulling out onto Jones Creek Road when the crash occurred.
The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office is investigating the crash.
Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said a man and his young child were in the truck, which was pulling out of an apartment complex entrance when it collided with the motorcycle. Both the truck's occupants were uninjured.
Hicks also said on the scene that investigators were questioning the driver and haven't yet determined whether there was any wrongdoing.
"We're very prayerful and hopeful that our brother in BRPD makes a full recovery," she said in the hours after the crash as law enforcement agencies across the region took to social media expressing their concern and praying for Totty's recovery. "But he is in very serious condition."
Bystanders said they saw people trying to administer CPR to the officer before emergency crews had arrived on scene.
Totty was rushed to the hospital and later into surgery. A law enforcement procession lined up outside Our Lady of the Lake hospital later Friday evening and dozens of officers escorted the body.
Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome released a statement not long after the news of his death, describing him as "one of BRPD's best and brightest young officers who was wholly dedicated to serving the people of Baton Rouge."
"Every day our men and women in blue put their lives on the line to protect the citizens of this great city," she said. "Please keep his family, friends and fellow officers in your prayers during this extremely difficult time."