Support system responds following deputy killing

Published 11:45 pm Friday, September 26, 2014

By Monique Roth and Stephen Hemelt

LAPLACE — St. John Sheriff Mike Tregre said everyone in the Sheriff’s Office and beyond knew Lt. Nolan Anderson, and therefore his death and the circumstances surrounding it would have a lasting impact on deputies and the greater community.

Anderson was shot and killed Wednesday by St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies after law enforcement officials said Anderson threatened his wife and shot at responding deputies.

Tregre announced Wednesday grief counselors were available for all members of his staff.

The Southern Law Enforcement Foundation and the Louisiana State Police Troopers Assistance Program are providing care for the involved deputies.

Dr. Bobby Smith, director of the Troopers Assistance Program, said law enforcement officers, whether real or imagined, have a perception big boys don’t cry and asking for help is a sign of weakness.

“These expectations and perceptions are false,” Smith said. “The fact remains, police officers are human beings, and they can only maintain so much stress in their cups. We operate under the premise that you cannot heal from these extreme critical incidents until you feel and address the emotions attached to them.”

Senior Trooper Chris McClelland of the Assistance Program said counselors are trained to conduct a “defusing” or “one-on-one interventions” immediately following incidents such as this.

“We also provide (those impacted) with information to educate them about how the critical incident could affect them mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually,” he said.

“Typically, a few days following the incident, we would conduct a debriefing, which is a more thorough and intense interview and response period.”

Smith and McClelland said officer-on-officer shootings are extremely rare.

“When an officer is forced to take another officer’s life, it is similar to taking the life of one of your own family members,” Smith said. “In such a case, they have taken the life of a family member, a member of the police family.”

Outside of the Sheriff’s Office, many in the community are feeling the pain and showing support.

Lucien J. Gauff III, St. John Parish Councilman At Large for Division A, said he texted Tregre Wednesday to let him know his prayers were with him and his department.

“Continue to walk in faith and our community will be there to support (you) and (your officers),” Gauff said he texted Tregre.

Michael P. Wright, Councilman for District 5, said it is truly a tragedy that the parish lost another officer this week.

“Our community has been faced with so much grief in the last few years, it’s disheartening,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the Anderson family. Thank you to our community for never giving up and keeping the faith alive. Better days are ahead for St. John.”