SUNSET, La. (Aug. 26, 2015) — A police officer was shot and killed Wednesday when he responded to a call from a house where three women had been stabbed, one of them fatally, in a town about 60 miles west of Baton Rouge, said the sheriff of rural St. Landry Parish.
The man accused in the attacks drove from the house in Sunset, a town of about 2,900, and into a convenience store about three blocks away, barricading himself in an office and telling police that he wouldn’t come out and was ready to fight, St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said.
He said SWAT team members lobbed tear gas and “C-gas” into the building, then broke in using hammers and fire axes to arrest Harrison Lee Riley Jr., 35, of Arnaudville, about 8 miles from Sunset.
Guidroz identified the dead as Officer Henry Nelson, 51, and Shameka Johnson, 40. Johnson’s sister Shurlay Johnson, 34, was in critical condition and Riley’s wife, Courtney Jolivette Riley, whose age the sheriff didn’t know, was in stable condition, he said.
All three women were stabbed, he said.
Riley was kept in a hospital for observation because he said one of his ribs hurt, the sheriff said. He said Riley will be booked with first degree murder and first-degree murder of a police officer — separate crimes, each carrying a possible death penalty, as well as two counts of attempted first-degree murder, criminal damage to property and resisting arrest.
Guidroz said the violence began with an argument between the Rileys at a house belonging to the Johnsons’ mother. “He began stabbing the Johnson sisters when they intervened to protect his wife,” Guidroz said. “Officer Nelson arrived, and a fight ensued.”
Nelson apparently was killed with his own handgun, the sheriff said.
He had planned to begin a month’s vacation on Thursday to spend time with his teenage daughter, said Sunset Police Chief Luis Padilla. He said the daughter lived out of town; he didn’t know where.
Nelson was a friendly, outgoing man who had worked for the department since 2002, Padilla said.
“Nothing made him mad. He loved life. Came in with a smile to work and left work with a smile,” he said.
Nelson and Riley were cousins, Padilla said.
Guidroz said he was told Riley is originally from New Orleans and has an extensive criminal history there. He had recently moved to Arnaudville, the sheriff said.
Nini Truong, 15, a sophomore in high school, said she was in the office of her parent’s store when a car crashed into it. She ran out amid the chaos to see what happened.
“I was doing my homework,” she said. “I was in the office and all of a sudden I just see the front just like crash and I see a car and everybody’s freaking out. People are trying to get out and I didn’t know what to do.”
Then a man got out of the car. “He was full of blood,” she said, but she didn’t see any weapons.
The man shoved people around, asking where Truong’s father was. Her parents weren’t there, she said.
The man went into the office and closed the door.
“I was just wondering what he wanted to do with my dad,” she said.
Clerk Tammy Adams said she recognized the man as a regular customer, but did not know his name. “I’m just grateful to God that I was able to get out of there,” she said, crying.
Nelson — one of six officers under Sunset Police Chief Luis Padilla — was the second Louisiana police officer killed in four days and the fifth in four months. State Trooper Steven Vincent was shot Sunday and died Monday. Shreveport Officer Thomas LaValley was shot to death Aug. 5, New Orleans Police Officer Daryle Holloway on June 20, and New Orleans public housing police Officer James Bennett Jr. on May 25.
Sometime later, the Sunset Mini Mart burst into flames. Firefighters quickly put out the blaze. The state fire marshal was working to determine the cause of the fire, Guidroz said.