BATON ROUGE — About one year ago, Beauregard Parish sheriff's deputies entered the home of 27-year old Eric Senegal in Ragley during a drug search. At one point, deputies shot Senegal three times, resulting in the death of the home owner.
These are seemingly the only facts that are undisputed by the victim’s family and the Sheriff’s Office, who are now in the middle of a lawsuit over the matter.
According to the lawsuit, the Sheriff’s Office was contacted by a confidential informant on Dec. 31, 2015, and told that the suspect had sold him marijuana. Less than a week later, an anonymous caller informed the police that the individual had threatened him when the caller told the suspect to cease selling drugs to one of the caller’s relatives.
The Sheriff’s Office quickly obtained a search warrant for the residence and officers descended on the address the same day.
During the raid, the SWAT team tossed several flash-bang grenades into the residence before they breached the front door and yelled out that they had a warrant.
The family dog reportedly launched itself at the officers, knocking one deputy into Officer Dale Sharp who, thinking the deputy had been shot, took aim at Senegal who was said to be coming at the SWAT team with a .45-caliber handgun in his hand, the Associated Press reported.
The second shot came from Officer Oscar Lopez, who states that when he saw Senegal aiming a gun at Sharp, he fired once and the victim fell to the ground. No information has been released as to where the third shot came from.
The dog also was shot and killed in the incident.
On Dec. 26, 2016, Senegal’s widow, represented by Hawkins Kee Law Group in Lake Charles, filed a federal lawsuit against the Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Ricky Moses and several deputies claiming that the “no-knock” search warrant was improperly obtained because it relied on the flawed testimony and unconfirmed statements from an unidentified informant and anonymous caller. When an investigation was conducted, the plaintiff alleges that the Sheriff’s Office obstructed the process.
Derrick Kee, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, told The Louisiana Record that his client is devastated and took issue with many of the claims made by the Sheriff’s Office and the police report.
“There are certain procedures that should be followed in police involved shootings, there is a certain chain of command, and there are certain policies that should be followed as a general matter,” Kee said,concerning the plaintiff’s statement that the police-involved shooting investigation was obstructed.
Kee said proper police procedures not adhered to in this case and that this negligence “was calculated to obstruct not only that [investigation] but subsequent investigations of the officers in the homicide case.”
“We are very confident,” Kee said, “that the investigation did not commence in the way it should have and certainly, all the way down to the prosecutor, the sham modicum of what they perceive to be a prosecution fit for a grand jury, we believe was not done properly … and was not done in the light of day.”
In regards to the claim by deputies that Senegal was armed, Kee said that his client was not holding a weapon during the incident.
“If anything, Mr. Senegal was trying to get away from the officers…that’s consistent with the physical evidence. He was shot in the back,” Kee said.
Kee was incensed that the two officers involved in the shooting were questioned during the investigation for 40 minutes, calling such an allegedly short time frame “unheard of” for a homicide case.
Asked about the role a “no-knock” warrant played in the death of Senegal, Kee said “there should not have been any kind of warrant granted by a court given the unreliable information that was available to the officers and the information that was withheld from the judge.”
Kee said that such warrants have been outlawed in other states and should be outlawed throughout the United States except in the most extreme circumstances.
The Louisiana Record asked what particular information had been kept from the judge, and Kee said that the police report said the confidential informant who informed them that Senegal was selling drugs had called the victim asking to buy narcotics, but the victim turned the call away. The report noted the informant was unreliable, yet he was used to garner a warrant.
Kee also noted that the anonymous caller, referred to in the warrant request as a “concerned citizen,” accused the victim of threatening him with a sawed-off shotgun. Yet after the raid, no such weapon was found. When the Sheriff’s Office attempted to contact the informant, he was not to be found.
The nature of the raid also rankled Kee who pointed to the shooting of the family dog as an indication that the police were using increasingly militant tactics.
“One of the things that proves to me [that militarization is occurring] is that the first thing they tell a soldier overseas, and I’ve studied this, is that if you see a dog, you shoot the dog,” Kee said. “Why do you shoot the dog? Because they distract from the mission. You don’t want things moving between you and the mission.”