Josef Richardson

Josef Richardson.

A Port Allen man shot Thursday by a West Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputy was killed by a single bullet to the back of his neck, according to an autopsy report released Tuesday, nearly five days since the deadly encounter.

The gunshot severed part of 38-year-old Josef Richardson's spinal cord and severely injured the base of his skull, the report from the West Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office shows.

Richardson died at the scene.

Sheriff's deputies had been serving a warrant Thursday at a Budget Motel 7 room near Port Allen when a deputy shot Richardson, according to State Police, which is reviewing the shooting.

The agency hasn't said why the deputy, whose identity has not been released, fired his gun.

Family and residents have called for the swift release of any new information ahead of a Wednesday rally outside the West Baton Rouge Parish courthouse. The autopsy report, in which Richardon's death is ruled a homicide, has also prompted more questions and demands for more details, said Ronald Haley Jr., the family's attorney.

"This is an egregious situation," Haley said. "When police execute a warrant, it should not be a death warrant."

The Sheriff’s Office has declined to comment on the warrant that deputies had been serving, directing those questions to State Police. The warrant has not yet been made public.

An arrest warrant for Richardson’s girlfriend, Jessica Ellen Clouatre, 39, suggests the deadly encounter may have been related to a narcotics operation at the motel.

Deputies arrested Clouatre in the motel room at the time Richardson was shot, according to an arrest report, which makes no reference to the shooting but says that deputies had gone into the motel room.

Authorities discovered what they believe were methamphetamines, marijuana and two digital scales, according to an arrest document.

Clouatre has remained in the parish jail since Friday with bail set at $41,000 on suspicion of a pair of felony drug sale charges, as well as two lesser infractions.

Local law enforcement agencies often call on the state or an outside police agency to investigate cases when an officer uses deadly force, a process that can sometimes take months before critical information becomes public.

But the release of any new details about the deputy has been delayed following several apparent death threats targeting him and the Sheriff’s Office.

“We're not going to release the deputy’s name while this is going on," said Maj. Zach Simmers, a Sheriff's Office spokesman.

Many of the threats have come through social media, he said, but authorities haven't arrested anyone accused of making them.

The deputy is on paid administrative leave pending the completion of the State Police investigation and an internal review.

Richardson’s family meanwhile hasn’t been contacted by either State Police or the Sheriff’s Office, Haley said.

"We should be able to demand from our law enforcement agencies, including the DA's offices, to reach a conclusion in the same speed and manner as they would any lay citizen accused of a crime," Haley said.

Simmers said the State Police review is essential to avoid conflicts of interest and the questionable optics of a law enforcement agency investigating itself. That process has been in place for at least the past 15 years in West Baton Rouge, he said. Other local police departments around the country have adopted similar practices in the wake of several high-profile police shootings in recent years.

State agents plan to forward their findings to the West Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office to review if the deputy violated any laws, but no timetable has been offered for when it will be finished.

"As soon as the facts are able to made public, they will be," Simmers said.

A State Police spokesman didn’t return messages Tuesday seeking comment about the autopsy or plans for releasing additional information.

Family and community members plan to press for quicker answers on Wednesday.

Benjamin Crump, a prominent civil rights attorney who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, plans to speak along with Richardson's family at Wednesday's rally.

"Law enforcement has an obligation to not go dark in this case," Haley said. "The family needs to be informed of what's going on step-by-step."

Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com.