screenshot Melvin watkins

Screenshot from a video that showed the moments leading up to the fatal shooting.

The East Baton Rouge sheriff's deputy who shot and killed a suspect in Baton Rouge's Highland Club subdivision last month has resigned.

The deputy's name has not been officially released, but James Hammett was the only sheriff's deputy to be placed on leave the day of the shooting.

EBRSO spokesperson Casey Rayborn Hicks said Hammett voluntarily resigned on Oct. 21 after media reports named him as the deputy involved in the shooting days earlier, citing personal and family health reasons.

He had previously returned to administrative duty on Sept. 30, after the review of preliminary information on the shooting by the Sheriff’s Office.

Hicks said it is EBRSO policy, for the safety of the officer, to not release the names of deputies involved in shootings. 

The Sept. 14 encounter lasted less than nine seconds, after a relative had called 911 to report that Melvin Watkins had been violent during the 95th birthday party of a relative.

Watkins, 54, was driving away from the scene when he apparently tried to run down a deputy, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux had said in a statement. The sheriff said preliminary results of the internal investigation show that Watkins turned his car and accelerated toward the deputy while disregarding verbal commands to stop.

"As the suspect's vehicle accelerated toward the deputy, the deputy was forced to flee backward into a neighboring yard as he was blocked in by his parked vehicle and the suspect's vehicle," Gautreaux said. "As the deputy fled backward, he fired shots into the vehicle."

Watkins was shot and killed behind the wheel of the vehicle.

The deputy had been dispatched to the scene after the 911 call from a relative at the party. Watkins had started arguing with another man there, then plunged a screwdriver into a door before other attendees asked him to leave and called the police to have him escorted from the premises, family members said in the days following his death.


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Watkins' wife filed a wrongful-death lawsuit not long after the shooting, arguing he was just trying to peacefully leave the scene when the deputy arrived and almost immediately fired his service weapon.

State Police is investigating the shooting per normal protocol for shootings involving Louisiana law enforcement officers. The results of that investigation will be turned over to the East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office to decide whether the deputy will face criminal charges.