Glenn Sims

Glenn Sims Sr.

A part-time East Feliciana deputy who shot and killed a man suspected of stealing raw chicken from a convenience store had been fired from the Sheriff's Office in 2004, but he returned to work periodically throughout the past decade, according to department records obtained by The Advocate.

Deputy Glenn Sims was fired five months after pleading guilty to assaulting his girlfriend, but sheriff's department records don't list a specific reason for his dismissal. Records show he was also convicted of crimes in 1992 and 2008.

Sims' background was cast to light after he fatally shot Christopher Whitfield, 31, who had broken into a cooler at the Texaco convenience store in Ethel on Oct. 14 and fled from deputies. The sheriff's office said Whitfield was shot accidentally at the end of a chase. It said Sims, a part-time deputy, fired a "warning shot" to get  Whitfield to stop running. During a struggle, Sims' gun discharged and struck Whitfield in the lower back.

Sims, who began working at the sheriff's office in 1990 as a parish jail guard, was convicted of simple battery in 2004, stemming from allegations that he assaulted his girlfriend over the course of several years. 

The woman's injuries were so severe at times she sought treatment at an emergency room after Sims choked her and threw her to the ground, according to a 2004 affidavit. She told investigators she was "scared to death" of Sims, who she said "threatened to 'blow her (expletive) brains out' if she made a report to the police that cost him his job," the report said.

The infraction would have been grounds to revoke his license to be a law enforcement officer in Louisiana if it had happened after legislators updated law enforcement officer guidelines in 2017. 

While failing to note specifically why Sims was fired, murky records kept by former East Feliciana Sheriff Talmadge Bunch also don't include when the sheriff's office re-hired Sims. They indicate he returned after his battery conviction and show he left again on June 20, 2008, when he took a different job.

A few months after his firing, Sims was arrested while confronting his former sheriff's office colleagues whom he accused of using excessive force while serving a warrant on a friend. The confrontation ended with deputies using a chemical spray to subdue him. Sims later pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and he received a year of probation and a suspended jail sentence in 2008.

Officials said he returned to the sheriff's office sometime after leaving again, and had recently been working as a part-time deputy while also working another job with the parish police jury.

His past criminal convictions, which also include an illegal discharge of a gun in 1992, didn't rise to a level that needed to be reported to the state's Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, which has the ultimate power to strip a law enforcement officer's license to work in Louisiana.

Bob Wertz, a spokesman for the POST Council, said Sims is still a certified law enforcement officer.

State lawmakers added automatic license revocations for law enforcement officers convicted of domestic abuse in 2017, and years earlier required officers to report anytime they're convicted of a crime to the POST Council. But those changes didn't include a look back for law officers convicted of past criminal offenses.

"You can’t hold him to a standard now, to which he was hired and the basis of the hiring standards at that time,” Wertz said.

East Feliciana Sheriff's officials said they weren't aware of Sims' convictions, which happened before Sheriff Jeff Travis took office in mid-2016. Bunch, the former sheriff, didn't return a message seeking clarity on Sims' history with the department.

Travis alluded to Sims' past criminal record but did not speak directly about it during a news conference about the shooting last week. He expressed concerns about the deputy's background and vowed to conduct "a full review of these matters and take appropriate action."

Chief Deputy Greg Phares said the lack of a statewide judicial database — as many other states have — makes it difficult for anyone to retrieve public court documents related to a person's criminal case.

He declined to speak about Sims' employment under the previous administration, but he pointed to one letter of reprimand Sims revived in 2016 for unwanted and physical sexual advances on a 911 dispatcher.

“Sheriff Travis and I take any allegation of domestic violence very seriously," he said. “I think my letter to Mr. Sims speaks for itself.”

Phares banned Sims from the 911 center and from contacting its employees aside from work-related calls, according to the letter. The employee told Sims' superiors that she was satisfied with the punishment. “Had she not been, it is likely that the punishment for your actions would be more severe,” Phares wrote in the letter.

Whitfield's family and their supporters have meanwhile called for transparency from the sheriff's office and protested police brutality last week in front of the courthouse in Clinton. They sharply questioned the chase and authorities' account about whether Sims was trying to return his gun to its holster. They called for a third-party to investigate the shooting.

Sims didn't return a message seeking comment. He has been on paid leave since the shooting.

The sheriff's office is reviewing the deadly encounter and plans to forward its findings to the local prosecutor's office.

Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com.