JENNINGS — Amid the pandemic comes frustration for some police officers about suspects they say aren't learning their lesson. There is an effort to reduce prison populations to protect inmates and staff from COVID-19. Only violent offenders are currently being booked into the Jeff Davis Parish jail.
"We have murderers or rapists, they can be booked into jail but non-violent offenders like drugs and burglary, those are turned away," Semmes said.
Semmes says they are now seeing suspects repeat crimes.
"As an administrator It's disheartening to me to see my officers are having to deal with this. Hopefully it will all be over with soon and we can go back to normal," Jennings Police Chief Danny Semmes said.
Coty Fontenot is a suspect in at least four crimes during the month of April. Accusations include drugs, robbery and even a high-speed chase. Each time, he's released from police custody because of the pandemic. Semmes recently posted about Fontenot on Facebook.
"They need to know some criminals are being released back onto the streets because of this virus," Semmes said.
Semmes says Fontenot has been released only to re-offend, sometimes in the same day.
According to the Facebook post, Fontenot was first arrested on April 5th, after Jennings police were called to the Shoprite for a simple robbery complaint. He was then released that later that day.
On April 30th, an officer made a traffic stop, "Upon approaching the vehicle officers observed 3 occupants inside the vehicle. Officers observed in plain view inside the vehicle a rifle. Officers removed the occupants from the vehicle and began speaking with all occupants. The front seat passenger, later identified as Coty Fontenot, was acting extremely nervous. Fontenot appeared to be intoxicated and attempted to walk away from officers several times. A search of the vehicle was granted by the driver and officers located a total of 5 firearms inside the vehicle. Upon relaying the occupants’ information to dispatch, dispatch advised a warrant for Fontenot was issued on April 4, 2020 for Simple Robbery in Jennings, La. Fontenot was placed into handcuffs and a search of Fontenot’s pockets revealed methamphetamine, marijuana, ecstasy, and other prescription medication. The driver stated Fontenot asked for a ride from Daigle’s gas station, but stated he did not know Fontenot. Fontenot was transported to the Jennings Police Department where he was later released due to the COVID-19 closure of the Jefferson Davis Parish Jail."
Fontenot's third arrest came only hours after being released on April 30th. Police say Fontenot hit a car with a stolen plumbing truck, then led officers on a high speed chase. According to the Facebook post, the high speed chase ended after Fontenot flipped the stolen vehicle.
"The arrest on April 5th, that would have ended his crime spree. He would probably have some bond and be awaiting trial," Semmes said.
Police say all they can do is be vigilant.
"We intend to follow up on these cases, and make sure justice is served on Mr. Fontenot," Semmes said.
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