Jace Boyd booked

Jace Boyd

The man who shot and killed a panhandler outside Trader Joe's last weekend was arrested Thursday, two days after police issued a warrant for his arrest and five days after detectives questioned him about the shooting but released him without filing charges. 

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Jace Boyd, 24, will be booked into jail on a count of second-degree murder, the Baton Rouge Police Department announced on its Facebook page. He was taken into custody with assistance from the Louisiana State Police Fugitive Task Force.

Boyd acknowledged shooting Danny Buckley, 61, Saturday evening in the Trader Joe's parking lot on Perkins Road, according to a police report. Officers questioned Boyd about the shooting but did not arrest him, pending a further investigation.

Police then issued a warrant for his arrest late Tuesday afternoon. 

When Boyd hadn't turned himself in by the next morning, BRPD turned to Facebook to seek the public's help, while also actively searching for him.

The exact circumstances of the shooting remain murky, but Buckley was "aggressively harassing customers" in the Trader Joe's parking lot, according to a police report obtained by The Advocate. The question is whether his actions were aggressive enough to justify Boyd's decision to pull the trigger. Boyd claimed self-defense, police said Wednesday.

Attorneys for Buckley's family said they have personally interviewed three witnesses, including a young woman who identified herself as the last person Buckley asked for money before the shooting. The woman said 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.

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

Detectives had contacted Boyd on the scene and later interviewed him but chose not to arrest 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.

A copy of the warrant, which should contain details about why police believe Boyd committed a criminal offense when he pulled the trigger, has not been made public. The police report didn't specify whether Buckley was armed or how exactly he was behaving toward customers.

Attorneys for Buckley's 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 issued the warrant in response to political pressure.

The warrant came 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 people commenting on the department's Facebook post wondered why the police initially released Boyd — giving him a head start to flee authorities, as one commenter suggested — only to come back a few days later seeking his whereabouts.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana also released a statement Thursday morning criticizing that decision.

"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 ACLU Executive Director Alanah Odoms Hebert.

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 the strength of Boyd's self-defense claim.

Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.