Sheriff Tregre fighting court’s death decision

Published 11:45 pm Friday, February 20, 2015

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE — Sheriff Mike Tregre said an appeal will be filed next week after a New Orleans jury took less than two hours this month to award LaPlace resident Norvel Lassere $250,000 and find four St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies negligent and partially responsible for the Jan. 24, 2013 shooting death of his mother.

According to court records, the jury also found the slain woman, 60-year-old Barbara Lassere, was half to blame for her death.

Norvel filed the wrongful death lawsuit — in which he requested $5 million in damages — in New Orleans federal court Aug. 14, 2013.

According to initial information released after the shooting by Louisiana State Police, Barbara was shot and killed by a St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s deputy in an altercation that started with a traffic stop. Trooper Melissa Matey said in an initial report that during the traffic stop, Barbara was fatally injured after she refused to get out of the car and after she fired at least one round in the direction of a deputy.

According to United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana court documents, the jury found Barbara 50 percent responsible for her death and divvied the remaining blame to four St. John Parish law enforcement officers.

Steven Dailey, the deputy who fired the fatal shot, was assigned 20 percent of the blame, and 10 percent of the blame went to each of the other responding deputies — Jose Rel, Cleven Remondet and Michelle Pierson.

“The judgment does not indicate what specific actions by the deputies constituted negligence,” Tregre said, adding “no one wanted this tragedy to happen … there was an exchange of gunfire between both parties.”

Tregre said he was “truly sorry for the loss of life,” but thought the jury’s decision may have been influenced by “more recent officer-involved shootings and other incidents and third outcomes when this verdict was delivered.”

Keith Carroll — a Sheriff’s Office employee once thought responsible for the fatal shot — Rey, Remondet and Norvel Lassere all testified in trial Feb. 9.

Tregre was also named in the suit.

In action filed Feb. 10, the jury named the four deputies “negligent under Louisiana state law” and indicated the deputies’ conduct was “a proximate cause of damage to Barbara Lassere,” according to court forms.

In the original court documents filed in the case, Norvel alleged “tortuous behavior” by members of the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office who “operated together and individually … caused the decedent Barbara Jean Lassere to be killed without legal justification and in violation of the civil rights guaranteed her under the Constitution of the Unites States of America.”

The suit stated Norvel was “entitled to survival damages for the physical pain and suffering and emotional distress and terror suffered by his mother … prior to her death and for the violation of her civil rights.”