A Gonzales man who was fatally shot by law enforcement Sunday after firing at East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputies through the rear window of an SUV — injuring one of the law officers — had recently finished a 17-year prison sentence for federal gun and drug infractions, according to local and federal authorities.

Sunday's incident started when deputies attempted to make a traffic stop near Pecue Lane and Airline Highway about 7:30 a.m. after noticing that the driver, 39-year-old Bernard Ledlow, appeared to be falling asleep at the wheel, according to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Ledlow fled in the vehicle and crashed several miles away on Kendalwood and Hoo Shoo Too roads, officials said. During the chase, authorities said, he fired a rifle through his back windshield at pursuing law officers and at a deputy who had been setting up road spikes.

After crashing, Ledlow ran into the woods while shooting at deputies, and one of the shots grazed a deputy's leg, authorities said. The deputy was treated at a hospital for his injury.

East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said deputies found Ledlow about six hours later in the woods. It led to a confrontation that ended when a deputy shot and killed him, the sheriff said.

Sunday’s manhunt triggered a large law enforcement response as authorities created a perimeter around the woods on Kendalwood near the Amite River. Officials evacuated homes in the area and deployed search dogs, helicopters and boats along the river.

About 10 residents were removed from their homes after deputies lost sight of Ledlow when he ran into the woods.

"We're very relieved the suspect is no longer a threat to the people living there,” Gautreaux said.

Earlier this year, law enforcement circulated a bulletin across agencies warning them that Ledlow was a potential danger to officers and the public, the sheriff said.

Ledlow was released from federal prison in January after serving a 17-year sentence for possessing a gun with the serial code scratched off as well as a drug sale infraction in 2003, according to federal records.

He had been arrested 13 times and convicted of a pair of felonies in Ascension Parish before his federal conviction, U.S. District Court filings show.

The cases include a felony armed robbery conviction after Ledlow held up a Gonzales bar at gunpoint in 1999, according to Ascension Parish court records.

The felony infractions barred Ledlow from legally possessing a gun, and he was on supervised release for three years following his release from federal prison.

Gautreaux described the rifle as an "assault" rifle and added that the SUV he was driving belonged to a neighbor who lent it to Ledlow.

The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office didn't release the name of the deputy who was injured nor the names of the deputies who encountered Ledlow before shooting him Sunday.

Gautreaux said the Sheriff's Office will investigate the officer-involved shooting.

The shooting comes just weeks after a gunman fatally shot a Baton Rouge police officer and seriously injured another as they were investigating a homicide.

The shooter in that April 26 incident, Ronnie DeWayne Kato Jr., was charged with first-degree murder and faces the death penalty after prosecutors said they would pursue it in the days following the shooting.

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said in a statement Sunday about the Ledlow incident that responding law enforcement showed “bravery in the face of extreme danger.”

“A simple traffic stop escalated into reckless violence,” she said. “I’m glad to hear the injured deputy has been released from the hospital.”


Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad