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Court continues to hear witness testimony in Ian Howard case for second day

Ian Howard mugshot with background.png
Posted at 4:20 PM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-09 19:07:05-04

LAFAYETTE, La.  — NOTE: we've corrected some information here, based on what Susan Hebert told us after the hearing.

A district court judge heard testimony Thursday for a second day from witnesses during a hearing for the man accused of gunning down a Lafayette Police officer and wounding three others in 2017.

State prosecutors and defense attorneys for Ian Howard continued to call several witnesses to testify before 15th Judicial District Judge Valerie Gotch Garrett.

Howard, 31, is accused of fatally shooting Cpl. Michael Middelbrook and wounding several other Lafayette Police officers as they responded to a shots fired call at the Big Boyz store on Moss Street in Lafayette in October 2017.

Assistant District Attorney Alan Haney called Chris Brent Owens to take the stand, who works as a team leader in the emergency room at UHC in Lafayette.

Owens testified that he was not the nurse who treated Howard the night of the shooting, but did make a statement to Louisiana State Police that Howard had threatened to come back and kill him.

Owens also testified that he told police that he could not tell if Howard was mentally ill or was faking it.

In a video statement, Owens told police that Howard would make sense talking to you, but would then tell you his name was "Ray Ward."

Cpl. Jeffery Trahan with LPD then took the stand and was asked by Haney if any officers ask any questions to Howard on the way to the hospital.

Trahan said that he didn't believe they did.

Trahan testified he rode in the ambulance with Howard to the hospital from the police station.

In body came footage shown to the judge, Howard is strapped on to a gurney with a sheet over him with his face bloodied as the sheet was also soaking up blood behind his head.

Trahan also testified that Howard continued to talk, pray and yell for the entire ride.

Trahan said he was not looking at the two police officers , or the medic driving while he did that.

Howard is also heard in the footage asking for a Pepsi, and pray to Ray Ward.

"Ray Ward is going to choke (and) kill all of you," Howard can be heard saying in the footage. "Is that Ray Ward right now? Is that Ward coming to swallow you whole? That dude better come quick for the Pepsi. I mean no disrespect. I mean no disrespect. I'm not going to stutter this time for the respect of Ward. He wanted you to get me a Pepsi. That man in that cruiser is going to kill you all for not listening to the respectful Ward."

Howard then appears to pray to Ward in the footage.

"Ward, you are so kind, helpful listening to all of us," says Howard. "I know you will always be above us shining brightly for us and no on truly understands what it means to be human in this world. Through you Ward, all things are possible. To live on this Earth with on another. The pursuit of happiness. Let us pray, Ward has mercy on all our souls."

Trahan then said that they did not talk or respond to Howard.

According to court records, "Ray Ward" was subpoenaed by Howard's defense attorneys.

When the ambulance arrived to the hospital, Howard is heard in the body cam footage saying, "Whoever brings a Pepsi shall never have to sell again. Give me my Pepsi if you want to live."

Trahan testified that Howard's behavior was abnormal.

After Trahan's testimony was done, Haney said the state would not be calling Tpr. Anthony Prado or Paul Dubois to testify as their statements were not suppressible.

One of Howard's defense attorneys, Richard Bourke, argued that was not a fair legal argument and stated the defense would call Prado and Dubois to testify.

Haney said that the state does not want a statement made by Howard after his Miranda Rights were read to be supressed. Haney argued that understanding Howard's sanity is not relevant, but wanted to know if police followed the correct conduct or use excessive force leading to distress.

Bourke said he still wanted anything from when Howard was approached by police in the coulee next to the convenience store on the night of the shooting, to the eight hours of Howard sitting in an interrogation room to be suppressed.

Bourke said that Howard made several statements during this time, and argues that those circumstances cannot show if Howard's statements are voluntary.

Bourke said that this is Haney's strategy to throw off the hearing and that all materials are relevant.

Bourke cited federal law that states that someone's mental health status can cause them to be vulnerable.

The judge ruled that those are two separate legal issues that need to be addressed.

Susan Hebert with Acadiana Medical Psychology Services to testify. Hebert worked at the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office as a licensed professional counselor working on inmate's mental health.

Hebert said she spoke with Howard numerous times and recommended him to stay constant suicide watch. She testified that Howard told her that he was once hospitalized for an overdose on Adderall, and but he denied a mental health hospitalization.

She said that Howard was also on Lexapro for depression and anxiety. She also testified that in her notes, Howard would have loose associations and would even make comments that made no sense.

Hebert also testified that in her notes that Howard had asked her how people kill themselves in jail.

Next to take the stand was Dr. Adam Giddings with Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, who was working the night Howard was brought in.

Giddings said that Howard continued to ask for a "Diet Coke," which was given to him eventually.

Giddings told the court Howard kept telling him that his blood sugar was low, so Giddings checked it and said it was fine.

Giddings was then asked about people going to jail in need of medical clearance to do so. He said that usually only happens when a police officer brings in someone for a minor offense or a homeless person. He said that it is by recommendation and not required to clear them medically to go to jail.

Bourke then attempted to bring a nurse who had previously treated Howard to speak more about the case, but Haney objected and called it irrelevant.

Haney argued that mental illness affecting the Miranda Rights waiver is no longer effective because it is a misconduct of policy.

The judge ruled that the nurses testimony may continue on Friday.

Howard, has two pending cases against him: a first-degree murder case in the Oct. 1, 2017 shooting death of Lafayette Cpl. Michael Middlebrook - for which prosecutors intend to pursue the death penalty - and in a separate case, three charges of attempted first-degree murder that involve the other alleged victims.

A district judge set a trial date of April 25, 2022 for Howard's attempted murder charges.

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