2 sheriff's deputies dead, 2 others wounded in shootout west of New Orleans

Kevin McGill, The Associated Press
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This photo provided by St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office shows Terry Smith. Authorities have identified seven people arrested in the investigation of the shootings of four Louisiana sheriff's deputies. Two died and the other two were wounded. State police said Friday that five of those arrested were at the scene where the shootings began. Two others are accused of being accessories. Motives behind the shootings and exactly how they unfolded have not been released. Although two deputies died, no murder charges have been filed. Twenty-four-year-old Brian Lyn Smith was charged with attempted first-degree murder. Forty-four-year-old Terry Smith; 22-year-old Derrick Smith; 28-year-old Kyle David Joekel; and 21-year-old Teniecha Bright are facing a charge of principal to attempted first-degree murder. Joekel and Brian Smith are hospitalized with gunshot wounds. Arrested on suspicion of being accessories after the fact were 37-year-old Chanel Skains and 23-year-old Britney Keith. All are from LaPlace. (AP Photo/St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office)

LAPLACE, La. - Two sheriff's deputies in Louisiana were shot to death and two others were injured in an early morning shootout west of New Orleans, authorities said Thursday.

The sheriff in St. John the Baptist Parish said five people are in custody.

A tearful Sheriff Michael Tregre said the incident started when a gunman opened fire for unknown reasons on a deputy working an off-duty traffic detail along a highway that connects U.S. Highway 61 with the busy industrial corridor along the Mississippi River. That deputy was wounded.

Tregre said someone called deputies with a description of a car fleeing the scene, and officers tracked it to a nearby trailer park.

When officers found the car, they handcuffed a suspect outside a trailer, then knocked on its door. Tregre said someone with a dog answered.

"Another person exited that trailer with an assault weapon and ambushed my two officers," Tregre said. Two deputies were killed and a third was wounded.

Two suspects were wounded in the shootout before officers subdued them, Tregre said.

The dead deputies were identified as Brandon Nielsen, 34, and Jeremy Triche, 27. The wounded officers were Jason Triche, 30, and Michael Boyington, 33. They were being treated at area hospitals but the extent of their injuries was not known. The Triches are not believed to be related.

The suspects were not immediately identified.

The initial shooting occurred around 5:30 a.m. at a parking lot off Louisiana Highway 3217 used by workers in the industrial area about 20 miles west of New Orleans, near the line between St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes. A massive grain port also is nearby. There is heavy traffic in the area as shifts change at plants and port facilities.

Bill Day, spokesman for Valero Energy Corp., said one of the deputies was providing security for an off-site parking lot used by contractors working at the Valero St. Charles Refinery.

Day said operations at the refinery had not been affected. Valero employees were being asked to report to work as normal, unless they park at the lot where the incident took place.

Some other plants in the area were letting non-essential workers in the area leave for the day or were telling them not to report for work as the search continued.

Police officers from throughout metro New Orleans rushed to the scene after the shootings in anticipation of a possible manhunt.

Tregre said an active search for suspects was no longer under way. State police are taking over the investigation.

Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered the state flags to be flown at half-staff over the state capitol and all public buildings and institutions until sunset Friday. The move, described as "an expression of respect for the four sheriff's deputies," was effective immediately, the governor's order said.