Jace Boyd booked

Jace Boyd

There was a fleeting moment when Danny Buckley still had a chance to survive: when the shooter's gun initially misfired. 

But the man police identified as his killer wasn't deterred. He quickly lowered the weapon and placed another bullet in the chamber, then fired the fatal shot.

Buckley, 61, was panhandling in the parking lot of Trader Joe's when the confrontation occurred Saturday evening. He was unarmed.

An arrest warrant obtained by The Advocate reveals new details about the circumstances surrounding the shooting, which prompted a public outcry after Baton Rouge police questioned the shooter that night but then released him without charges.

Detectives came back and issued the arrest warrant days later. Jace Boyd was arrested Thursday morning after BRPD officers located him with help from the Louisiana State Police Fugitive Task Force.

The warrant provides the first details of what happened outside the busy upscale shopping center on Perkins Road:

Buckley was panhandling in the parking lot, asking people for money. When Buckley approached Boyd's vehicle and demanded money from him, the two got into a "verbal dispute" through the car's open window. Buckley then walked away and approached a young woman instead. 

Boyd, 24, got out of his car and yelled at Buckley to "leave people alone because he was scaring them," police say. Buckley's attention turned back to Boyd.

"As the victim approached the suspect, the suspect armed himself with a firearm from inside his vehicle," police wrote in the warrant. Boyd pointed the gun at Buckley and tried to shoot him, but the weapon misfired. So Boyd lowered the gun and reloaded it, placing a new bullet in the chamber, and then fired one shot into Buckley's abdomen.

The victim was "unarmed and out of reach of the suspect" when Boyd pulled the trigger a second time, police said. "The victim immediately discontinued his approach to the suspect, and would be transported to a local hospital."

The arrest warrant says Boyd contacted police at the scene. Detectives questioned him about the shooting and he initially claimed self-defense, police have said.

The question now is whether Buckley's actions were aggressive enough to support that.

Attorneys for Buckley's family said they have interviewed three witnesses, including a young woman who identified herself as the last person Buckley asked for money before the shooting. The woman wrote on Twitter and said in a television interview that Buckley followed her and her roommate to their car and she heard someone shout at him to leave them alone as she was getting into the vehicle. Seconds later, she heard a gunshot.

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"I never felt threatened by Mr. Buckley in any way," she wrote on Twitter, noting she could only speak to her own perceptions. Panhandling "should not be a death sentence."

Detectives chose not to arrest Boyd immediately after interviewing him that night. Three days later — following significant public outcry and a meeting with attorneys for the victim's family — detectives issued the arrest warrant.

Chief Murphy Paul said at a community discussion Thursday evening at Broadmoor United Methodist Church that Boyd was a suspect from Day 1 but noted the investigative process takes time.

He acknowledged receiving numerous phone calls from local politicians and community leaders who had concerns about the case. "I appreciate the attention it got and I would like all of our homicides to get that attention," Paul said.

Attorneys for the family claim the shooting constitutes a hate crime.

Buckley was Black and Boyd is White. The attorneys questioned whether police would have handled the case differently if a young Black man shot an older White man in the same Perkins Road shopping center, which contains several other upscale retail stores and restaurants in addition to the Trader Joe's market.

Attorneys also questioned whether BRPD reacted to political pressure. The warrant was issued after Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome said she was very concerned about the incident and had asked the city's police chief to "conduct a fair and transparent review of what happened."

Some further questioned the department's decision to initially release Boyd without charges.

"There is not a shadow of a doubt that if Jace Boyd were Black, he would not have been respectfully questioned and then released by investigators," said Alanah Odoms Hebert, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana. "Right now we have two systems of justice in America."

Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. L'Jean McKneely Jr. explained that detectives didn't have enough evidence the night of the shooting to make a valid arrest at that point. He said detectives needed more time to interview witnesses, review video footage and collect other evidence before determining whether Boyd's description of what happened was accurate.

Boyd was booked into jail Thursday on one count each of second-degree murder and illegal use of a weapon. He remained incarcerated with bail set at $300,000 as of Thursday evening.

Advocate staff writer Blake Paterson contributed to this report.

Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.