BR.nicholsfolo.121219

Theresa Nichols and Antonio Nichols

The widow of a man fatally shot by a St. Helena Parish sheriff’s deputy at his Independence home on Monday evening said her husband was armed with an assault rifle when he answered the door, after she pleaded with him to drop his weapon and surrender.

Her version of events confirms initial reports from the Sheriff’s Office that said Antonio Nichols, 47, was armed, though it conflicts with the account of a neighbor who reported witnessing the encounter but saw no weapon when Nichols spoke to deputies.

St. Helena Sheriff’s Office Chief of Operations Joe Chaney said late Monday that Antonio Nichols was armed the night he died and that one deputy who responded to the scene fired his weapon two times. Neither he nor another deputy who responded were injured. State Police, as is protocol in the case of officer-involved shootings, has taken over the investigation.

Chaney had said previously it was not clear whether Nichols had fired at the deputies; his widow, Theresa Nichols, 45, said Wednesday her husband did not fire the gun.

She said she was watching television in the house when deputies showed up at their trailer home to arrest her husband on a felony warrant for oral sexual battery of a juvenile.

When she answered the door, the deputies asked if her husband was there and told her they had a warrant for his arrest. She said she wasn't surprised; months earlier, a family member had told her about being molested by Antonio Nichols.

She called to her husband and told him the police were there for him.

“He didn’t say anything,” Theresa Nichols said. “Before he came out of the room, he went on the side of the bed and got an AK-47 rifle and went to the door.”

He had at least two other guns stored in the home, she said.

She looked at him and begged him, “don’t do this.” Concerned about her children's safety, she instructed them to go to the bedroom while she remained in the kitchen, pleading with her husband to drop his weapon.

While the deputy stood in the doorway, her husband faced him, holding the gun, she said. Antonio Nichols asked them why they were there, and they informed him they had a warrant for his arrest. The deputies ordered him to put his weapon down, but he ignored them, she said.

“He told the police, “‘Get the f*** off my property. Get away from my house. I have it on safety right now. I’m not going to jail,’” Theresa Nichols said.

She said she fell on her hands and knees and pleaded with him to put down his weapon, reminding him there were children in the home and that deputies would kill him if he didn't cooperate.

Finally, the deputy warned Antonio Nichols a final time to drop his weapon. It was then that her husband took a step back, “like he was going to raise the rifle,” she said, and the deputy shot at him twice.

“I don’t know if both of the bullets hit him or not,” she said. “When the police officer shot him, [Antonio] still had the rifle in his hand.”

After he slumped against the wall of the bathroom, the deputies came into the house. The deputy who shot him kept saying, “’Why did you do that? Why didn’t you put the rifle down?’” according to Theresa Nichols.

In the meantime, she implored deputies not to kill him, as she could see her husband was still alive. The deputies wrested the rifle from his grasp and threw it on one of her children’s beds before asking her to find an old T-shirt that they could rip up as a bandage for his arm, where at least one of the bullets had struck him.

“They kept asking him to put his hands behind his back,” she said. “He said, ‘I’m trying.’ The last thing he said was, ‘I’m trying to put my hands behind my back, but I can’t move my arm.’”

Theresa Nichols remembers the ambulance taking a long time to come before he was transported to the hospital, leaving blood splattered in the hallway of their small home, drenching her children’s shoe tote.

She said she anticipated the warrant for her husband's arrest and had wanted him out of her home, but he resisted. With three of her four children still living at home and limited financial resources, she wasn't able to relocate her family without support.

“I did what I can do,” she said. “I’m only one person. I can’t physically force him to leave.”

Theresa Nichols said when she confronted her husband about the sexual abuse allegations and told him authorities would eventually come to arrest him, he told her he didn’t care. She asked, “What are you going to do, have a shootout with the police?”

She remembers him saying, “‘If that’s what it takes.’”


Email Jacqueline DeRobertis at jderobertis@theadvocate.com