Attorney says it’s legal for E Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office to investigate its own, but community could perceive conflict

East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office will remain lead agency in officer-involved shooting investigation

ETHEL, La. (WAFB) - The man shot and killed by an East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy on Monday, Oct. 14 was accused of stealing from the same gas station in Ethel where he was shot in 2010. That’s also when he was banned from the property, according to the store owner, Danny Williams.

The store owner says Christopher Whitfield broke into a refrigerated storage unit and stole raw chicken and a case of eggs. Williams says the storage unit is located behind the gas station.

According to officials with EFPSO, deputies stopped the burglary in progress and at some point, one of the deputies shot Whitfield.

EFPSO is the lead agency on the case, means it’s investigating one of its own.

Attorney, Don Cazayoux, who’s not affiliated with the case, says there’s not a legal requirement that says a third party, like Louisiana State Police, has to step in.

However, Cazayoux says there can be a perceived conflict of interest from the public that can make the investigation difficult.

“We all have a natural tendency to want to do it ourselves. I don’t fault them for that. Certainly that’s not what the best practices are around the country,” Cazayoux said. “There’s a lot of pressure, maybe not even actual pressure, but perceived pressure to sort of help their brethren, their friend, their fellow officer.”

According to EFPSO, there are no new updates on the case. The name of the deputy involved is still being withheld. Details on what lead to the fatal shooting are still unclear as well.

East Feliciana officials did say the deputy has been with the sheriff’s office for quite some time and has since been placed on administrative leave. It’s that personal connection to the individual that could have some in the community weary. Legal experts say LSP investigators are skilled enough to remove doubt.

“The public can trust that it’s been done fairly without any biases or conflicts of interest,” Cazayoux said. “I think most agencies that have an officer involved in a shooting probably should hand off to the State Police.”

LSP is assisting the sheriff’s office in the case.

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