An East Feliciana Parish sheriff's deputy who fatally shot a fleeing man suspected of stealing raw chicken from an Ethel business will soon go before a grand jury that will weigh whether to bring criminal charges.

Deputy Glenn Sims Sr. shot Christopher Whitfield, a 31-year-old who had broken into a cooler in the early morning hours of Oct. 14 at the Texaco gas station and convenience store.

According to investigators, Sims fired a warning shot into the ground in an effort to stop Whitfield from running. Sims caught up to Whitfield and grabbed the back of his hoodie, which led to a struggle on the ground behind the gas station. During their scuffle, Whitfield hit Sims' gun, causing it to fire and strike him in his lower back. Whitfield died at the scene.

District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla said he will ask a grand jury in the coming week to consider bringing a second-degree murder charge against Sims, though the panel could also recommend lower charges or decline to indict him altogether.

The shooting touched off a handful of peaceful protests in Clinton in which Whitfield's family and their supporters have decried the shooting as unjust. They say Whitfield wasn't a danger to deputies because he was unarmed and running away.

"We don't kill people in America for being hungry," Benjamin Crump, a national civil rights lawyer representing Whitfield's family, said in October. "It is unconscionable in one of the most prosperous countries in the world that we would shoot someone for taking food."

Whitfield's family has said he was diagnosed with schizophrenia a few years before his death and law enforcement, including Sims, was aware of his long struggle with mental illness.

The family also has called for a third party to investigate the shooting after the sheriff's office said it would review the shooting itself and forward their findings to the district attorney. Many local law enforcement agencies in Louisiana have State Police investigate officer-involved shootings.

The family has sharply questioned the chase and authorities' account about whether Sims was trying to return his gun to its holster.

The deadly encounter has also drawn attention to Sims' work history. Sheriff's department and court records show he was fired but later returned to the agency following a 2004 battery conviction stemming from allegations he assaulted his girlfriend over the course of several years.

In one instance, the woman sought treatment at an emergency room after Sims choked her and threw her to the ground, according to State Police records.

Sims received a short probation sentence after pleading no contest to the charge.

Sims was convicted of at least two other crimes in the parish. He served a period of probation for an illegal weapon discharge in 1992 and was sentenced to a year of probation with a suspended jail sentence attached in 2008 for resisting an officer, according to court records.

The latest infraction came when Sims got into a fight with East Feliciana deputies after he confronted them about using too much force in carrying out a warrant on a friend during a party.

Deputies subdued Sims with a chemical spray after they say he had been threatening them. Sims was not working for the sheriff’s office during the fight with his former colleagues.

The battery conviction would have stripped him of his license to be a law officer in Louisiana if it had happened after lawmakers updated guidelines in 2017 to include revocations for domestic violence convictions.

Inconsistent records kept under former East Feliciana Sheriff Talmadge Bunch don't say when Sims came back to work for the department, and they don't list a specific reason for his dismissal. They instead show he returned to the sheriff's office sometime after his 2004 firing and later show he came and left periodically in the last 10 years.

Sheriff Jeff Travis has said his office wasn't aware of Sims' criminal history or previous firing because those happened before he took office in mid-2016.

Records under his administration show Sims was also barred from the 911 dispatch center outside of his work duties after a woman complained he made unwanted sexual advances on her.

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,” Chief Deputy Greg Phares wrote in a letter reprimanding Sims.

At the time of Whitfield's death, Sims was working part-time and had even run for sheriff in 2011.

He did not return calls seeking comment and has remained on paid leave since the shooting.

Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com.