Manhunt chaos led to 15-hour delay in finding La. trooper's body
"It created the perfect storm for this to happen," said State Police Col. Lamar Davis
By Lea Skene
BATON ROUGE, La. — A Louisiana state trooper was shot to death while typing reports inside his patrol car early Saturday morning in Prairieville, but another 15 hours would pass before another officer found him unresponsive — a delay that agency leaders called "absolutely unacceptable" and "a perfect storm" of communication failures.
During a press conference Monday afternoon, State Police Col. Lamar Davis released more information about the alleged ambush of Master Trooper Adam Gaubert, which added to the mayhem and tragedy of a massive multi-parish manhunt for Matthew Mire, the suspect in that shooting and several others.
Davis said the chaos of the manhunt likely led to Gaubert going undiscovered for the next 15 hours. He said troopers were maintaining radio silence during the search, meaning non-emergency radio calls were suspended.
"It created the perfect storm for this to happen," Davis said.
Normally, Gaubert would have signed off around 6 a.m. when his overnight shift ended, telling his colleagues "10-7" over the radio. But those calls are suspended during major emergencies like a manhunt or other critical incident, per agency protocol, Davis said. So the lack of communication from Gaubert raised no red flags.
"People not involved in the immediate event are not to communicate on the radio," Davis said. "Even if Adam had been fine he would not have communicated."
Gaubert had served 19 years with Louisiana State Police. He was assigned to Troop A and mostly patrolled Ascension Parish.
The night of his death, officials believe Gaubert had responded to a traffic accident and then parked in a secluded spot behind the Capital One bank off Airline and Jefferson highways to complete his report. It was a totally routine occurrence that had nothing to do with the search for Mire, who had already shot his neighbors in French Settlement around midnight, stolen a pickup truck and headed toward Ascension Parish.
Investigators believe Mire ambushed Gaubert and shot the trooper multiple times before committing another double shooting at a house less than a mile away, Davis said Monday.
Gaubert filed his last police report at 2:21 a.m.
Just minutes later, around 2:30 a.m., video surveillance shows Mire driving with his headlights off toward the area where Gaubert was parked, Davis said. Within a half hour, local law enforcement received reports of a double shooting right around the corner on Dutton Road. Authorities believe Mire shot two relatives, leaving a woman dead from her injuries and a man in critical condition.
Officers responded to that scene around 3 a.m. — but they had no idea Gaubert also desperately needed help. His body went undiscovered until around 6 p.m. Saturday.
Investigators later linked shell casings from the two shootings, which likely occurred within moments of each other, according to a police report. More matching shell casings were found in the stolen pickup truck.
In the meantime, Mire crossed paths with another state trooper about two hours after the Prairieville double shooting. The trooper tried to pull Mire over 1.5 miles north of Dutton Road around 5 a.m., but Mire shot at the officer and sped away, heading north on Jefferson Highway and crossing into East Baton Rouge Parish.
A pursuit ensued, and quickly morphed into a manhunt involving several law enforcement agencies and every technological tool available to locate Mire. The search was launched just before the 6 a.m. shift change, which is why no one noticed that Gaubert was missing, Davis said; they likely assumed he just went home.
Meanwhile, Mire ditched his stolen truck and then spent hours running around in a wooded area near Bayou Manchac. He was finally taken into custody after 10 p.m.
But before his arrest, dispatchers received a terrifying call about a trooper shot near Dutton Road. Officials said a resident of the area had notified authorities about a police vehicle whose driver appeared unresponsive, and another trooper found Gaubert.
Dozens of law enforcement vehicles went screeching toward the scene around 6 p.m., their lights and sirens blaring. Officers initially shut down the intersection of Airline and Jefferson highways as the sun set and the manhunt continued.
Several hours later, Davis gave a statement to media in the Capital One parking lot, confirming that Gaubert was found unresponsive, his death linked to Mire.
Officials initially released few details about the timeline of events, but Davis addressed those questions during the Monday press conference, saying investigators believe Gaubert was killed in between the French Settlement and Prairieville double shootings.
That timeline matches up with the experiences of Kevin Schexnayder, a close family member of the Prairieville victims who lives in a garage apartment next door to where the shooting unfolded.
When police cars swarmed the property Saturday evening, Schexnayder said officers initially told him they were searching the area for Mire. But he later learned about the fallen trooper.
Schexnayder said he combed through footage from his security cameras outside. In the video, he noticed headlights coming from the gravel road where Gaubert had been parked.
"There are always police here patrolling the place," he said. "Matthew knew that because he stayed with us before. I think he walked up and shot that officer ... so he would have time to get away after he came here."
When Davis went to describe how another trooper found Gaubert unresponsive Saturday evening, he paused for several seconds to keep his composure during the Monday press conference.
"This event is one of the toughest events I've ever had to work in my career," he said. "Going through something like this challenges your core."
Davis said State Police are implementing a number of changes in response to what happened, though some technology upgrades were already underway. He said this tragedy made it abundantly clear that the agency needs more safeguards to make sure all troopers are accounted for. Among the changes underway: expanded GPS coverage of patrol vehicles, including alerts whenever someone stays dormant too long, and more location monitoring by supervisors.
The loss of Gaubert — and questions about why his body went undiscovered for so long — came at a tumultuous time for State Police, which was already reeling from a series of excessive force cases in north Louisiana that prompted an ongoing federal civil rights probe. One trooper was indicted last month and more charges are expected in the coming weeks. Davis was named agency head late last year after his predecessor, Kevin Reeves, stepped down amid mounting scandal.
"This has been a very long and hard road," Davis said during the press conference. "But I can tell you that we're learning from this experience, getting better and creating a better system."
After his arrest late Saturday, Mire was hospitalized for treatment of police dog bites and what officials believe was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg.
Though he declined to give a statement to detectives, Mire talked to the troopers guarding him in the hospital. He asked them about Gaubert, then said: "I didn't mean to, but the guy was watching the house," according to a police report.
State Police said late Monday afternoon that Mire had been discharged from the hospital and was headed to Baton Rouge jail. He faces a litany of charges in Livingston, Ascension and East Baton Rouge parishes.
"Since the suspect was taken into custody Saturday night, he has been handcuffed," troopers posted on Facebook above a photo of Mire in cuffs. "Those handcuffs are symbolic to every Trooper within LSP. Those handcuffs belong to Trooper Gaubert."
Around the same time, troopers escorted the body of their fallen comrade to Resthaven Funeral Home on Jefferson Highway. Funeral services have not yet been announced.
Advocate staff writer Caroline Savoie contributed to this report.
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