LaPlace, LA — Last month a LaPlace man was awarded $250,000 after a jury found that four St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s deputies were each partially responsible for the shooting death of his mother.
Friday, however, lawyers for St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre announced that they are appealing the verdict. They stated that deputies were not responsible for the shooting death of 60-year-old Barbara Lassere.
Lassere was killed by police in January of 2013 after being stopped for driving with a broken headlight.
Police claimed that Lassere refused to get out of the vehicle, waived a gun and then drove off. The gun Lassere allegedly brandished was recovered at the scene and entered into evidence. However, family members interviewed at the scene said Lassere was never known to carry a gun.
Family said that Lassere is “terrified of police officers,” which is why she drove off after being stopped alone, in the middle of the night.
Lassere then drove a short distance to her house where she pulled into the driveway. Below is a description of the situation according to the lawsuit:
“Back-up was called and numerous other employees of the St. John the Baptist Parish sheriff arrived, with multiple cars, canines and riot gear,” the lawsuit reads. “Surrounded by flashing lights, guns and dogs, Ms. Lassere became increasingly confused and frightened. Ms. Lassere attempted to respond to numerous conflicting and shouted demands, putting her hands on the steering wheel, outside the driver’s side window and up in the air in front of her. She was shot without provocation by one or more unknown sheriff’s deputies as she sat in her car, and died on the scene.”
Police originally claimed that at this point Lassere fired a gun at them. However, according to Norvel Lassere, the victim’s son, the officers never confirmed this in court.
“From what I heard, all of the defendants that testified, not one said they actually saw a gun in my mama’s hand,” Norvel Lassere said. “They all said they thought she was reaching. You don’t yell gun, if you don’t see a gun.”
Deputies did testify that they heard a “single muffled shot.” However, this coincided with one of the deputies breaking out the rear passenger car window directly behind Lassere’s head, just prior to shots being fired.
The breaking glass startled his mother, causing her to jump, and a woman deputy to whom she’d been talking thought she was reaching for a gun. The deputy then yelled out gun, and another deputy fired several shots into Lassere, killing her.
The claims of shots fired from Lassere were never substantiated because investigators never tested her hands for gunpowder residue, nor her gun to see if she had fired it. No officers were hit, and no bullets or casings were recovered from the scene.
Only one deputy fired into Lassere’s vehicle as well. Had she actually fired a gun, it is entirely unlikely that only one deputy would have responded with gunfire.
The jury awarded the damages to Norvel Lassere because the deputies’ story does not hold water. And now, a woman who was simply driving home was killed by negligent police who remain on the job, because of a broken headlight.
“I know that my mom may have made some poor choices that night herself, and so the jury found that her actions were partly responsible for what happened as well, and I’m willing to accept that.
“I just wanted the officers to understand that they did something wrong. They always say that ‘My actions were justified,’ and they feel like they are never wrong. People are human. … Humans are prone for error. So, not every action or every decision is going to be the right one.”
Below is a powerful video put out by Norvel Lasserre in remembrance of his mother.