Louisiana prosecutor declines to charge deputies in shooting of mentally ill man

The decision, announced Friday by prosecutors in St. Martin Parish left the mother of Michael Noel 'furious' at the decision to blame her son for the deputies' use of force.

Paul Kieu/AP
Barbara Noel, mother of Michael Noel, discusses the fatal shooting of her son in St. Martinville, La., earlier this year. On Friday, Louisiana prosecutors ruled out criminal charges in Mr. Noel's death.

Prosecutors in southern Louisiana declined to pursue criminal charges against sheriff's deputies in the fatal shooting of a mentally ill man last year, leaving his mother "furious."

In what has become a grim echo of similar cases in Chicago and an Oklahoma jail where a confrontation between police and people with mental illness has turned deadly, Barbara Noel told the Associated Press that her son, Michael Noel, didn’t posed a threat to the deputies who tried to take him into custody and drive him to a hospital on Dec. 21.

On Friday, Assistant District Attorney Chester Cedars said his office in St. Martin Parish found that charges weren't warranted after a review of evidence gather by investigators from the State Police.

In a 20-page memo, he described the shooting of Mr. Noel as a "reasonable reaction to an extraordinarily intense and volatile situation which was brought on, solely and exclusively, by Michael's conduct."

But his mother told the AP she witnessed the confrontation, which took place in her living room, and can't understand how investigators could place the blame only on her son.

The case reflects ongoing concern about sometimes-deadly confrontations that result from interactions between police and with mentally ill people. In Los Angeles, the Police Department has partnered with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health to deploy clinicians to work with officers to ensure mentally ill people get access to supportive services.

The partnership, which has become a model for other departments around the country, has helped reduce uses of force in interactions with mentally ill people, the Monitor reported last year.

In a case that drew an outcry last year, Chicago police shot and killed 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, along with neighbor Bettie Jones. Police said Mr. LeGrier was threatening his father with a baseball bat, but his mother said police should never have been called.

The incident became more chilling after 911 records revealed that LeGrier had called 911 three times in distress, but dispatchers only responded to a fourth call from his father.

The dispatchers were later suspended and his family filed a wrongful death suit, while the officer who shot him later sued his estate for causing him "extreme emotional trauma," the Atlantic reports.

In Louisiana, Barbara Noel, told AP prosecutors didn't inform her of their decision not to charge the sheriff's deputies in her son's death. In March, his relatives sued Ronald Theriot, the St. Martin Parish Sheriff and the two deputies involved in the deadly confrontation. In their suit, they said the shooting was unprovoked and came as the result of poor training and supervision.

Having clinicians assist beat cops has also helped reduce the number of 911 calls where a dispatcher is unable to help someone with mental illness. Such partnerships also provide an alternative to the use of jails as de facto mental hospitals after people with mental illness are incarcerated following a confrontation with police, advocates say.

"To be treated within a mental health climate and environment, as opposed to being in custody within a jail setting, has enormous implications for one’s recovery and the cost of one's recovery," Fred Osher, director of health systems and services policy at The Council of State Governments told the Monitor last year.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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