SUNSET, La. (AP) — Called in to calm a domestic dispute, a small-town police officer was killed with his own gun, fired by a cousin, authorities said.
Henry Nelson, 51, was killed Wednesday, a day before he planned to leave for a month’s vacation, which he planned to spend with his teenage daughter, Sunset Police Chief Luis Padilla said.
Also killed was Shameka Johnson, 40, who — along with her sister, Shurlay Johnson, 34 — had tried to protect Courtney Jolivette Riley from her husband, Harrison Lee Riley Jr., 35, according to St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz.
He said Shurlay Johnson was in critical condition and Courtney Riley was in stable condition. Harrison Riley, who faces murder charges, was under arrest at a hospital.
Nelson was an outgoing, friendly and sunny person who had been planning to spend the next month with his teenage daughter, Padilla said.
“Nothing made him mad,” Padilla said. “He loved life. Came into work with a smile and left work with a smile.”
Padilla told The Associated Press late Wednesday that Riley and Nelson were cousins. He said Nelson was killed on his last workday before a scheduled month’s vacation to have time with his teenage daughter, who lives out of town — Padilla doesn’t know where.
He said Nelson had worked for the 14-person law enforcement agency, which included six police officers including the chief, since 2002.
Guidroz said Harrison Riley will be booked with first-degree murder in Johnson’s death, first-degree murder of a police officer — a specific crime which also carries a possible death penalty — and with the attempted first-degree murders of the other two women.
The Johnsons are sisters of Grand Coteau Mayor Shaterral Johnson, whose town is a mile from Sunset.
All three women were stabbed, Guidroz said.
Harrison Riley 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, Guidroz said.
He said SWAT team members lobbed tear gas into the building, then broke in using hammers and fire axes to arrest Riley.
Riley was kept in a hospital for observation because he said one of his ribs hurt, the sheriff said.
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.”
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.
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.
Nelson was the second Louisiana police officer killed in four days and the fifth in four months. Louisiana State Police 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.
Associated Press writers Janet McConnaughey and Chevel Johnson contributed to this report from New Orleans.
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