Mother of man accused of shooting at police officer shares son's dark past

Eugene Thomas Jr. (Source: East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office)
Eugene Thomas Jr. (Source: East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The mother of the man accused of shooting at his own family and a police officer on Sunday night opened up to 9News about her son's violent criminal history and mental issues.

Stephanie Hardnett says her son, Eugene Thomas Jr., 34, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia with depression and that he had stopped taking his medications. "He comes and goes. His mind comes and goes. One minute he's Eugene, the next minute he's somebody else," Hardnett said.

Hardnett says on Friday, Thomas left to d rop his nieces off at school and never returned. She says relatives called him and sent text messages, but got no response. Then on Sunday night, she says they went looking for him.

"We tried getting him back home. He was just too paranoid to really listen to what we were trying to tell him," Hardnett said.

Hardnett says she and her family were traveling down E Polk Street when they tracked the Mercedes Benz Thomas was driving at the intersection of E Polk and Thomas H Delpit. She says they spotted the Mercedes and tried to stop Thomas, but that didn't work.

"He just jumped out and started shooting, so we hurried up and drove off and called 911," Hardnett said.

Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul says Thomas was met by an officer not far from there on Lettsworth Street. He says when that officer pulled behind the car, the driver, who was later identified as Thomas, got out and started shooting at the marked police car.

RELATED: BRPD officer injured in shooting; suspect in custody identified

Investigators say Thomas ran again. A team of officers caught up with him on West Gr ant Street and Highland Road, where they say Thomas finally surrendered. Thomas is charged with four counts of attempted first degree murder, attempted first degree murder of a police officer, and a felon in possession of a firearm. Thomas was arrested in 2002 for a shooting in front of Polk Elementary School. He was charged with second degree murder, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. His mother says he was sent to a mental health facility and was released from his probation last October.

"I love him. I am praying for him. I miss him and I hope that he gets well, and I hope he realizes what has happened," Hardnett said.

The officer, whose name has not been released, is expected to fully recover. It's not clear who owned the gun or how Thomas got it.

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