THE INVESTIGATORS: Use of force experts weigh in on deadly deputy-involved shooting in St. Helena Parish

THE INVESTIGATORS: Use of force experts weigh in on fatal deputy-involved shooting in St. Helena Parish

ST. HELENA PARISH, La. (WAFB) - The 9News Investigators are learning more about Monday’s deadly deputy-involved shooting in St. Helena Parish.

As Louisiana State Police continues to investigate, a family demands to know the truth after their loved one, Antonio Nichols, 47, was shot and killed at his home.

“I don’t see what reason they would take his life," said Nichols’ cousin, Kendall Woolridge. “I want to find out and I’m not going to give up until I find out because I know he was a good person.”

Deputies with the St. Helena Parish Sheriffs Office showed up around 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 9 to serve a warrant against Nichols on a felony sexual battery of a juvenile charge. Police say the man answered the door with a weapon, but it remains unclear whether Nichols used that weapon or what exactly may have caused the deputies to open fire.

“It’s a lot more to it. I’m trying to figure out why and I’m confused, but I really want to know,” said Woolridge.

WAFB was able to find out Nichols had two traffic tickets in his past, one of which he had a warrant out for his arrest in 2018. The 9News Investigators asked for a copy of the most recent warrant that brought officers to his home this week, but the sheriff’s office would not release it because the case involves a juvenile. As LSP takes over the investigation, it’s hard to say what they may be able to reveal from the deadly encounter. A number of rural agencies in the Baton Rouge area do not wear body cameras, but a spokesman with the St. Helena Parish Sheriff’s Office says its deputies do. WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked how crucial the video is when it comes to investigating the case.

“With the video, it’s more than what the video picks up visibly,” said Scott Shavers with the Baton Rouge Constable’s Office. "It’s also the tones in the voices.”

While he cannot speak directly to this case, Shavers can shed light on what normally happens when law enforcement officers act on a warrant. He says the first thing they’re required to do is identify themselves.

“The first step is to let them know who you are and to let them know that there is a warrant active for them,” said Shavers.

Shavers says transparency in a situation that can often turn dangerous is key. He says officers have a list of tactics to deescalate a situation before turning to deadly force.

“It’s voice commands, soft hand control, non-lethal weapons like tasers, pepper spray, and things like that, but it all boils down to training,” said Shavers.

It’s not yet known what steps were taken in this case or why things led to violence. A sheriff’s office spokesman tells WAFB both officers were wearing body cams at the time of the shooting. Whatever video may have been collected from the encounter now becomes vital in how the case moves forward.

“They’ll be taking statements from the officers. Clearly, any witnesses that were in the house at the time that the warrants were being issued and obviously they’ll be doing a lot of fact-finding,” said Andrew Scott, who operates a law enforcement consulting firm out of Florida.

Scott has more than 30 years of experience in use of force cases. He believes this situation should not have gone south, but says it’s always possible.

“You wouldn’t expect an individual of that nature to be violent based upon the limited history that he has," said Scott. "There is one exception that every officer knows, though, regardless of how much they think there may or may not be violence, there always is that propensity.”

The two officers involved in the case have been placed on administrative leave as the investigation plays out, but family members say they need to know more.

“We want justice and we’re not going to stop until we get justice,” said Woolridge.

LSP has not given a timeline on when its investigation into the matter will wrap up.

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