Undercover police officer killed in hit and run; 2 arrested

Undercover police officer killed in hit and run; 2 arrested
Christopher Lawton
Albert Franklin (Source: East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office)
Albert Franklin (Source: East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office)
Ashley Chaney (Source: East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office)
Ashley Chaney (Source: East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office)
Law enforcement on scene of deadly hit and run. (Source: WAFB)
Law enforcement on scene of deadly hit and run. (Source: WAFB)

BAKER, LA (WAFB) - A Zachary undercover police officer, who is also a firefighter, was killed after being run over by a U-Haul truck Monday night, according to officials.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office identified the victim as Christopher Lawton. Coroner William "Beau" Clark says an autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday to determine the exact cause of death.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office reports Albert Franklin, 33, and Ashley Chaney, 30, have been arrested. Deputies say Franklin will be charged with first-degree murder, hit and run, damage to property, and as a fugitive from the Zachary Police Department. They added Chaney will be charged with obstruction of justice.

RELATED STORIES: Zachary officer killed in hit and run in Walmart parking lot

The incident happened at the Walmart on Plank Road in Baker around 8 p.m. on Monday, March 12. Officials say the U-Haul truck hit the officer, then left the scene.

Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said two undercover Zachary police officers were executing a drug-related felony warrant at the time. The two officers saw the suspect in the U-Haul and parked in the parking lot to observe him. They watched him for several minutes, then pulled up behind him and got out of their marked unit. Gautreaux said when the suspect saw them, he began to drive away.

Lawton was reportedly on the passenger side of the truck and was pinned between the truck and a grocery cart return. The other officer did not immediately realize what had happened and got back in the unit to chase the suspects in the truck.


The officer called in the incident and gave a description of the U-Haul to officials, then returned to the Walmart parking lot to help Lawton, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Gautreaux confirmed he was a full-time Zachary fireman and a part-time police officer.

Gautreaux said they caught the two suspects within about 20 minutes of the initial call. They were found on Old Comite Drive. Both suspects are in custody at the Violent Crimes Unit. Several witnesses have also provided statements of the incident.

"Everybody's taking it rough ... I, unfortunately, have been through this more than once," said Gautreaux.

Gautreaux also urged all the officers who responded to the scene and who are part of those agencies to be supportive of each other and the family of the victim. Lawton also had ties to EBRSO. He was the brother of one of EBRSO's secretaries.

Gautreaux said there is no reason to believe shots were fired and that Lawton's injuries indicate he was indeed run over. He added they reviewed surveillance footage from the Walmart parking lot that also supports this.

"It's a tragic thing, another tragic loss," said Gautreaux.

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome released the following statement Tuesday morning:

I am deeply saddened by the tragic death of the Zachary firefighter and policeman who lost his life while bravely serving his community. I join all of East Baton Rouge Parish in expressing my gratitude for his service, and offer up prayers for his family, his fellow first responders, and to all those who knew him. Our hearts go out to the Zachary community.

The Zachary Fire Department also released a statement Tuesday afternoon. It reads:

Chief Lawton was a dedicated public servant. He served the citizens of Zachary for over 20 years. Chief Lawton became a volunteer firefighter in March of 1996. He then became a full-time firefighter with the Zachary Fire Department in March of 1998 and worked his way through the ranks. At the time of his death, Chief Lawton held the position of Deputy Chief, the second highest rank within the Zachary Fire Department. He was also an Arson Investigator for the City of Zachary. Chief Lawton served as a Zachary Police Department Reserve Officer, joining the Police Department in May 2008. Over the past 20 years, the citizens have been blessed to have a servant such as Chief Lawton. The City of Zachary Fire Department lost a brother, friend, mentor, leader, and dedicated firefighter. Chief Lawton's knowledge and persistence for excellence will be greatly missed.

The department also highlighted numerous awards Lawton received throughout his career, including Medical Life Saves, Fire Stops, Unit and Crew Citations. He was also an active and founding member of the Zachary Firefighter Association, Local 4644.

Lawton leaves behind a wife, Shannon, son, Marshall, and daughter, Claire. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

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