Baton Rouge police shot and killed a suspect in Tigerland early Monday while trying to take him into custody on a series of violent incidents, including one in which he's accused of attacking his girlfriend with a machete and almost slicing off her fingers.

Police released bodycam footage Monday evening which shows the brief encounter between Vincent Harris and the officers that quickly escalates into shots fired when Harris points a gun at them. It appears he initially retreats into the bathroom once officers arrive and then slams the door, at which point police also back out of the apartment. 

The next interaction lasts about 15 seconds once Harris again emerges from the bathroom. Officers are heard yelling for him to show his hands when suddenly their voices turn more urgent. A screenshot from bodycam footage shows him reaching through the door with what appears to be a gun in his right hand. "He's got a gun! He's got a gun!" an officer screams just instants before shots ring out.

A police dog charges through the doorway toward the suspect just moments before the shooting, leaving the K9 injured in the gunfire as officers unleashed more than a dozen rounds through the doorway and into the front of the building. 

Police said late Monday afternoon they were holding off on releasing the suspect's name because his family had requested more time. But a local television station later published his name, citing information from the coroner's office. The suspect was Harris, 51, officials confirmed. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

Four Baton Rouge police officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave. Their identities have not been released. The injured dog is now in stable condition receiving treatment, officials said.

Harris was wanted on attempted second-degree murder, aggravated second-degree battery, second-degree kidnapping and domestic abuse battery. According to an arrest warrant, Harris' girlfriend talked to police several weeks ago after she ended up in the hospital with severe cuts to the fingers on her right hand.

She told police the violence had escalated over a number of days, beginning when Harris questioned her about a call she received from her ex-boyfriend and then started punching her multiple times. He also prevented her from leaving the residence, she said.

The next day, Harris questioned her about another call from a number he didn't recognize, which she said was her brother's, then armed himself with a handgun, struck her multiple times and again refused to let her leave, the victim said.

The final incident occurred when the two started fighting and Harris grabbed a "long edged weapon" that the victim called a machete, the warrant says. She placed her hands over her head to protect herself from the blade, which sliced into her fingers as Harris continued swinging the weapon near her face. Medical staff later told police all four fingers on the victim's right hand had been cut to the bone, and she underwent surgery to repair severed nerves. Officers observed that she had stitches on that hand and bruises across her body.

Harris had also faced domestic abuse and firearm charges in the past, court records show.

Police had been searching for Harris since the warrant was issued in May. They had posted his name on the local Crime Stoppers website, which prompted multiple recent tips about his whereabouts.

Paul said they received a tip shortly after midnight Monday that he was staying at the Tigerland apartments.

'This building is cursed'

The shooting occurred around 1:35 a.m. Monday in the 4700 block of Tigerland Avenue, which is the address of a Tigerland apartment complex that has been plagued with crime and violence in the past.

A double homicide there last fall left a man and a woman dead inside one of the apartments — the one adjacent to where Monday's suspect was killed.

Hours after the shooting Monday, authorities had cleared the scene without removing large amounts of blood splattered on the door and across the pavement. A total of 14 bullet holes were visible in the door and front exterior wall of the unit, each assigned an evidence marker.

A doormat displaying the faded words "All you need is LOVE" was covered in blood and surrounded with bloody footprints.

Sherrie Geither, who lives in the complex and acts as building manager, said Harris had been staying in one of the apartments upstairs, not the one where the shooting occurred. She said she knew him for about five years and had the impression he was a decent guy. She found out recently that police were looking for him and that he was facing serious charges.

She said she believed Harris was hiding from police. She had told officers recently that he was staying there after they asked her for information.

"Now I feel guilty because he's dead," she said, her voice faltering in an interview Monday morning. "He was always good to me. This is a horrible situation."

Geither said she didn't witness the shooting but heard the gunshots loud and clear. As the building manager, she will likely be tasked with cleaning up the massive amounts of blood caked on the walls and floors. 

She also ended up delivering the news of the suspect's death to his daughter hours after the shooting, a conversation no one ever wants to have, she said.

"I think this building is cursed," she said. "The number of people I've seen die from overdoses and shootings since I've lived here … you wouldn't believe."

The complex is located toward the back of the Tigerland area, which catered to LSU students decades ago. Many of the buildings have deteriorated since then and students have passed them up in favor of newer complexes outside the Tigerland development. Meanwhile crime and violence have risen and landlords have become less discerning when deciding whom to accept as tenants, residents have said.

Geither said she has grown tired of finding hypodermic needles littering the parking lot and watching suspected drug deals right outside her window, but she also understands that people need somewhere to live and many Tigerland residents are struggling to survive. She said a lot of the nearby complexes will rent to anyone without performing a background check, which often allows landlords to set high rent prices because they're accepting otherwise undesirable tenants.

She also said the shooting early Monday rattled her enough that she might finally start seriously looking for a new apartment, especially coming just months after the October 2019 double homicide.

That shooting left Stan Riley, 37, and Amanda Authement, 34, dead on the scene. Both victims lived in the complex but in different units. Two men were indicted earlier this year on murder charges, accused of opening fire during a planned drug deal.

Riley's widow, who spoke to The Advocate last year in the immediate aftermath of losing her husband, still lives in the complex. A memorial to him — a handmade wooden cross painted with his name — is displayed outside the apartment where his widow remains.

Ongoing investigation

BRPD officials said the department itself is investigating the police shooting, which comes at a time of heightened scrutiny for both that department and other law enforcement agencies nationwide following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Baton Rouge police had entered into a memorandum of understanding with Louisiana State Police several months after the 2016 police shooting of Alton Sterling, which prompted Baton Rouge to engage in its own reckoning with longstanding questions about race and policing. The memorandum stated that State Police would investigate instances in which Baton Rouge police officers used deadly force, instead of allowing the department to investigate its own members.

But that contract ended after Paul took office in 2018, taking the helm of BRPD following decades at State Police. Now that outside agency is involved in Baton Rouge police shooting investigations only when there's a potential conflict of interest between the individual officers involved and the department's internal affairs investigators. That doesn't apply in this case, the chief said Monday.

The ongoing internal investigation will determine whether officers violated department policy during the encounter. 

Officials explained that the K9 was on scene as a possible means to apprehend the suspect without using deadly force. The dog had already rushed into the apartment when the suspect brandished a gun, making deadly force necessary.

Officials said the dog, named Rain, has served with the department for the past two years and is now being treated at LSU's veterinary hospital.


Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.