A police shooting that left a suspect dead from multiple gunshot wounds late Tuesday morning followed a standoff that started 17 hours earlier when narcotics officers initiated a traffic stop because the man was seen leaving a suspected drug house in Baton Rouge.
Police said the man refused to pull over and then barricaded himself inside a house on Sycamore Street. Hours of negotiations ensued — and the suspect fired more than a dozen rounds at officers from inside the building before finally stepping outside late Tuesday morning and pulling the trigger once again.
That's when officers returned fire, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul told reporters Tuesday morning. The chief did not release the suspect's name or condition, saying only that he had been taken to the hospital. But an attorney representing the man's family said around noon that he had been pronounced dead.
Paul said the Baton Rouge police officers involved in the incident tried everything possible to prevent the tragic outcome.
"The preservation of life was definitely noted in our efforts," he said. "They did everything in their power to end this peacefully. … Please keep him and his kids — my understanding is that he has five — to keep them and his family in your prayers."
A suspect who was in a standoff with Baton Rouge police for 17 hours was shot and taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds late Tuesday morni…
Niles Haymer, the attorney representing the family, identified the man as Keith Carter, 52. Haymer said he was able to participate in the negotiation process, helping police in their attempts to convince Carter to lay down his weapon and come outside.
"I tried my best and I was praying for him," said Haymer, who said he has known Carter for more than 10 years. "I hate that it ended this way."
Many of Carter's relatives gathered at the scene and waited for several hours during the standoff, praying it wouldn't end in tragedy.
"Keith was a brother, uncle, father and son. His family was out there and they heard the shots that killed their loved one," Haymer said. "That's traumatic for anyone."
Police said Carter told officers that he wasn't going back to jail and mentioned a medical condition during their negotiations. Haymer also said Carter had been battling some form of cancer for over a decade, but described the standoff and shooting as a mental health crisis, saying it shows the horrific consequences of the state's inadequate healthcare system that often allows people with mental illness to fall through the cracks.
"He was crying out for help," Haymer said. "We just failed him as a society."
Both police and the family's attorney said it would be inappropriate to label the incident a "suicide by cop" but they noted Carter's medical condition.
His criminal history in East Baton Rouge is not extensive, according to online court records. It appears Carter was arrested multiple times for cocaine distribution in 1996, but the court record doesn't include a clear outline of how those cases were resolved.
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Police said narcotics officers were out doing proactive patrols in designated areas with elevated levels of violence when they encountered Carter on Monday afternoon. Carter was seen leaving a suspected drug house, which is why the officers initiated a traffic stop on Plank Road around 4 p.m. Monday, said Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. L'Jean McKneely Jr.
McKneely said it's normal for officers to make contact with people under such circumstances, part of routine operations that allow detectives to root out drug activity in neighborhoods across Baton Rouge.
"He was in a known drug area by a known drug house. That's what prompted them to make contact," McKneely said. "That counts as reasonable suspicion."
But Carter refused to pull over and instead continued driving to the 4200 block of Sycamore Street, when he ran from his truck into his house, according to police. Officers followed him inside, but Carter then brandished a gun, so the cops went back outside, secured the scene and called for backup. That's when the standoff began.
Authorities tried to get Carter to come out, but he stayed inside and fired "several shots throughout the night at our police officers," the police chief told reporters Tuesday morning. Paul said the standoff "unfortunately ended today when (Carter) exited the rear of house and at one point fired a weapon at our officers, who returned fire."
East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. Beau Clark said early Tuesday afternoon that his office responded to a death at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center not long after the man arrived there, but declined to release the decedent's name. Clark said an autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.
No officers were injured during the incident, which occurred in a residential neighborhood near the intersection of Evangeline Street and North Foster Drive. Several people were asked to evacuate from nearby homes and remained outside for the duration of the standoff. They set up chairs on the outskirts of police tape, which extended across three or four blocks.
Louisiana State Police troopers are now handling the investigation into the officer shooting per normal protocol. They declined to release any additional information about the case Tuesday evening.
Officials with the Baton Rouge Police Department said they haven't yet determined whether they'll release body camera footage of the incident and are checking to see if it meets the department's policy requirements.