LOCAL

Gonzales Police officer, suspect reportedly exchange gunfire

Staff Report

The Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office reportedly began an investigation into an exchange of gunfire between a Gonzales Police officer and a suspected driver of a car that flipped on a road near Hwy. 30 late Dec. 14.

According to an initial police statement, the officer found a Corvette flipped in the middle of Ashland Road around 11:15 p.m.

The officer reportedly had been responding to reports of a white Corvette driving recklessly in the area of Interstate 10 and Hwy. 30, which is east of Ashland Road on the east side of Ascension Parish.

When the officer approached the car, a person believed to be the driver interacted with the officer, police said.

The interaction reportedly led to shots being fired by both the suspected vehicle's driver and the officer.

Under department policy, the officer has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation, according to police.

Sheriff speaks at news conference

Ascension Parish Sheriff Bobby Webre provided initial information from the investigation during a news conference broadcast by Baton Rouge television station WBRZ.

The sheriff identified the man as Joseph White Jr., a resident of neighboring St. James Parish.

He said a 911 call was received around 11:10 p.m. with a woman reporting she was being pistol whipped. The phone then went dead.

About a minute later, dispatchers received a call reporting a white Corvette was driving "very recklessly" in the area of Interstate 10 and Hwy. 30. The car reportedly exited at Hwy. 30 near the Tanger Outlet mall and headed westbound toward Hwy. 73.

Webre said the car apparently made a U-turn and turned on Ashland Road.

At the time, he said the two 911 calls had not been pieced together as being part of the same situation.

Webre said another phone call came from the same number the woman used earlier, but this time, no one was speaking.

Gonzales Police were dispatched to the scene, where an officer discovered the overturned car.

Webre said the officer approached who he believed to be the driver of the vehicle, who had his hands behind his back.

According to the sheriff, the officer asked the man if he could see his hands. At some point, Webre said, the officer saw a weapon, so the officer drew his gun.

Webre said both guns being drawn caused a "very, very tense situation."

The sheriff said the man reportedly was going to give up the weapon, but "in just a split second" the driver put the gun to his head, pulled the trigger, and killed himself.

Webre reported the officer, once he saw the gun being lifted, fired his gun. Three rounds were fired with one round striking the driver in the thigh. The other two apparently did not hit the driver.

The sheriff reported White and the woman were married but had been separated.

Webre said a complete autopsy will be conducted and that APSO and the 23rd Judicial District Attorney's Office has been investigating. Louisiana State Police were called, but are not involved in the investigation, he said.

WBRZ and WAFB obtained video footage that appeared to show the interaction between the officer and White from the officer's body-worn camera.

The sheriff also said more information will be released at a later time.