The federal trial of three St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies has been halted after one of the defendants apparently shot himself Thursday night.
Capt. Andre Dominick, 58, of Arabi, was taken to University Medical Center with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Officials said they could not release any other details about the incident, including Dominick's condition.
However, WWL-TV reported that Dominick apparently shot himself in the torso. It said sources reported that he underwent surgery for life-threatening injuries and was in a medically induced coma.
Dominick was four days into a trial with two other deputies in connection with the death of Nimali Henry, a 19-year-old who died in the jail of a blood clot caused by a rare blood condition.
All three face potential life imprisonment on accusations that they violated Henry’s civil rights by ignoring her pleas for help and then later lied to the FBI.
Prosecutors alleged that Dominick, who was the jail's medical director, failed to take action after hearing that Henry suffered from a deadly condition called TTP that could have been treated with medication.
The trial, which was scheduled to feature testimony from government witnesses on Friday, has been continued to Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle is overseeing the case.
Dane Ciolino, a law professor at Loyola University, said Lemelle would have to declare a mistrial as to Dominick. But he thought it likely that the judge would continue the trial for the other two defendants — deputies Lisa Vaccarella and Debra Becnel.
“It really is a matter that is left to the judge’s discretion under these circumstances. So whatever the judge decides is unlikely to be changed by an appellate court,” Ciolino said. “That’s a lot of time that everyone has put into this case, and I would expect that the judge would let the trial go on as to the remaining defendants.”
In a parallel case, a federal judge in Lafayette declared a mistrial for attorney Daniel Stanford, who was accused of a drug conspiracy and money laundering, after his co-defendant killed himself in 2014. Stanford was convicted at a second trial.
In New Orleans, veteran Police Department Officer Donald Nides killed himself in the midst of his 2014 federal trial for allegedly taking bribes of cash and oral sex from a pain clinic operator. He was the sole defendant in that case.
Dominick has been on paid administrative leave as the case against him and his colleagues has been pending. He was free on bail ahead of the trial.
The St. Bernard Parish native has been in law enforcement since the age of 19, according to an opening statement given by his attorney, Paul Fleming. Fleming also said that Dominick's wife died — of a blood clot — between his indictment in 2015 and the start of the trial.
Unlike the other deputies on trial, Dominick was not assigned to watch over Henry on a daily basis. Instead, as a trained EMT, he was supposed to refer inmates' complaints about their health to a doctor or a nurse.
Fleming said his client had considered taking early retirement just before Henry's death because he was concerned that he lacked the qualifications to serve as medical director. But the Sheriff's Office pressured Dominick to stay on the job, he said.
"Capt. Dominick is not the uncaring monster that the prosecutors would paint him to be," Fleming said.
U.S. Attorney Peter Strasser's office declined a request for comment about Dominick on Friday.