The West Baton Rouge deputy who fatally shot a man during a narcotics raid last month had received extensive gun safety training, earned a prestigious award for saving a state trooper’s life and is named in a lawsuit after hitting a fleeing suspect with a car and breaking his leg.
Deputy Vance Matranga Jr., a nine-year veteran with the agency, was part of a narcotics team that stormed a room at the Budget 7 Motel along U.S. 190 while executing a search warrant on July 25, the Sheriff's Office said Thursday. At some point during the operation, Matranga fired his gun and the bullet struck Josef Richardson, 38, in the back of the neck.
Richardson died at the scene after a bullet severed an area of his spinal cord and damaged the base of his skull, according to an autopsy.
His family has said those findings show Richardson wasn't a threat. They've called for a federal investigation and the prompt release of information about the shooting.
The family of Josef Richardson, the Port Allen man fatally shot by a West Baton Rouge deputy, called on the U.S. Department of Justice to inve…
Records show Matranga has been with the sheriff's office since 2010. Among other duties, he’s worked as a firearms safety instructor and as a member of the Riverwest Narcotics Task Force, the unit that entered Richardson's motel room.
Training records show Matranga received use-of-force certifications in 2018 and 2016, as well as 50 hours of basic SWAT training in 2014.
He’s named in a federal lawsuit stemming from a 2016 arrest of a Port Allen man who suffered a broken leg after Matranga hit him with his vehicle and tackled him as he was running away. The lawsuit alleges that authorities and medical responders didn't treat the man for several hours after booking him into the parish jail, violating his civil rights.
Matranga was also awarded with the state’s Medal of Valor award for aiding a state trooper who survived being shot in the head by a fleeing driver who wrestled the driver’s gun away from him.
Matranga was also awarded with the state’s Medal of Valor award for aiding a state trooper who survived being shot in the head during a tussle for the driver's gun. During the response, Matranga and another deputy exchanged gunfire and wounded William Belniak, who was later sentenced to 28 years for attempted murder.
The award recognizes law enforcement officers who responded to life-threatening situations.
Reynard Douglass, Richardson’s nephew, said while his family was pleased about Thursday's release of the deputy’s name, they still have more questions, including what prompted the deadly encounter and whether it could have been avoided.
“We still have questions we want answered,” Douglass said.
Louisiana State Police is investigating the shooting but hasn't released any information since the evening it happened.
Richardson's family members and other activists, meanwhile, have pressed investigators for answers, nearly three weeks since the shooting.
“They’re still frustrated about the process and lack of details in the investigation,” said the family’s lawyer, Ronald Haley Jr.
Jessica Clouatre, Richardson's girlfriend, was in the room and saw the shooting. She said through her attorney that a deputy shot Richardson as he was surrendering just seconds after law officers burst through the door.
Clouatre, 39, was arrested that night and booked on suspicion of selling marijuana and methamphetamine.
Investigators asked a judge to allow the narcotics team to immediately enter the motel room without announcing themselves, a law enforcement device known as a no-knock warrant. Detectives wrote they needed to enter the room without announcing themselves because drugs can easily be concealed.
Matranga has remained on paid leave since the shooting.
State investigators plan to forward their findings to the local district attorney's office to review if Matranga broke any laws.
The sheriff’s office said it will conduct its own review to see if Matranga or other deputies violated any department rules.