Sheriff: Officer, woman killed; search on for boyfriend

Janet McConnaughey
Associated Press

New Orleans — An off-duty police officer and a woman he was helping were shot and killed Friday in a New Orleans suburb, and authorities were searching for a man who had been involved with the woman, officials said.

Police shut the Mississippi River bridge from New Orleans’ east bank to its west bank during the search, causing traffic to back up for miles, because an unidentified man was threatening to jump from it.

Helicopters circled the area, and an Associated Press photographer on the scene saw police lowering a rope to him late Friday afternoon. The man did not grab the rope and police pulled it back. The man then lay down on a girder, which was below the bridge and outside the railing.

The New Orleans Advocate quoted Assistant Gretna Police Chief Anthony Christiana as saying that he’d been told the incident on the bridge might be related to the double shooting, which happened Friday morning outside a school across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.

State Trooper Dustin Dwight said officers on the bridge did not know the man’s name.

Authorities had earlier identified Sylvester Holt, 32, as a person of interest in the double shooting of Westwego Officer Michael Louviere, 26, and Simone Veal, 32, of Marrero, and were searching for him. But Jefferson Parish sheriff Col. John Fortunato could not say whether the man on the bridge was Holt, who authorities say had been romantically involved with Veal.

According to witnesses, the shooter fired at Veal, then chased her car in his vehicle to an intersection where she hit a truck waiting at a light, Fortunato said. Louviere, whose shift on Friday ended at 6 a.m., was on his way home after work when he spied the crash and stopped to help.

The man shot Louviere in the head, then ran around the car and shot Veal as she lay on the ground, Fortunato said. Fortunato didn’t know whether she’d been hit in the earlier shooting.

Abdallah Aballah, who works at a gas station near the scene of the shooting, said a woman ran in about 6:30 a.m. Friday screaming for someone to call 911. Aballah says he then heard two shots, and customers ran outside.

Louviere was married and had a 1-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, Fortunato said.

According to Westwego Police Chief Dwayne Munch, he was a rising star likely bound for a job at a larger agency.

“We knew we wouldn’t have him for long. We just didn’t know he would be gone this soon,” Munch said.

Prior to his career in law enforcement, Louviere was a U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan, Munch said. He joined the department in July 2015 and “finished first in everything” in his police academy class of roughly 20 recruits, Munch said.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said dozens of officers from multiple agencies were searching for Holt. Several women had taken out protective orders against him between 2012 and November 2016, the sheriff said.

He had also been arrested in September after being accused of rape. But Jefferson Parish district attorney Paul Connick Jr. said the rape charge was later dropped after the woman repeatedly told authorities she wanted to withdraw the charge.