Tragedy in St. Rose

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 25, 1998

L’Observateur / November 25, 1998

St. Charles Parish had a shock last weekend as reports came out of ashooting in St. Rose, where a man was shot by two sheriff’s deputies. Thecircumstances were unfortunate, the death leaving as it did a distraught, grieving wife and two young deputies attempting to cope with the totally unexpected.

Most law enforcement professionals go through their entire careers without once pulling a trigger and shooting a man to death. Most rarelyeven draw their sidearm. Shooting a man, even one who is armed andapparently attacking, is no easy job for anyone to perform, even those who are trained for it and have to live with the notion any day such a confrontation will come their way.

The deputies have come under considerable criticism for not wounding the man but instead firing 11 times, sending 10 bullets into the man’s chest.

On the other hand, such deputies are trained to react instinctively when faced by a man, admittedly intoxicated, and armed with a loaded rifle.

They are not trained to disable but to eliminate the threat, both to protect their own lives but also those of any others in the area.

Certainly, other alternatives might be suggested rather than the chain of events which ended in a man losing his life to police bullets. Onesuggestion might have been to isolate the armed man within his trailer and bring in a K-9 team to flush him out. However, that would likely notwork and end up even more tragically, with the loss of life of more than one person in the episode.

The death of Russell Stebbins was a tragedy, without a doubt. The casewill likely go before District Attorney Harry Morel and a St. CharlesParish grand jury for review. Nothing it can do can bring back RussellStebbins.

What can be done at this point is justice. That includes fair treatment ofthe deputies involved and due consideration for his grieving widow. No onewants pain and suffering to continue, and such is being felt on both sides.

Sheriff Greg Champagne has talked on a daily basis with the deputies involved. Their names have not been made public for the protection ofthemselves and their families.

Champagne reports the men have genuinely grieved and constantly reviewed their own actions, seeking to understand what happened, overcome their feelings of guilt and know what, if anything, could have been done differently. What they want is to know they had no choice.Mrs. Stebbins is likewise experiencing grief at the loss of her husband of15 years, a measure of guilt for calling in the sheriff’s deputies and her own anger at the police.

There were no witnesses in the trailer besides those two deputies and the slain man. Only they know what truly happened. All else is speculation andconjecture. Tragically, Stebbins cannot tell his side of the story. All wehave to truly go on will be the word of two sworn servants of the law.

No one can truly know what their reaction would be when confronted by deadly force. It’s an experience which cannot be truly shared orcommunicated. Officers of the law are provided a measure of training tohelp them react properly and legally, if faced with such circumstances.

We all need to take a sobering look at the situation, imagine ourselves in their shoes and let the mechanism of the law take its course.

It’s a hard job, but we need to be fair and just.


Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

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