LAFAYETTE, La. — A district court judge heard testimony Wednesday from witnesses from both the state and the defense during a hearing for the man accused of gunning down a Lafayette Police officer and wounding three others in 2017.
Both state prosecutors and defense attorneys for Ian Howard called several witnesses to take the stand before 15th Judicial District Judge Valerie Gotch Garrett to testify.
Howard, 31, is accused of shooting two men at the Big Boyz store on Moss Street in Lafayette. He then fled the scene in his vehicle but returned multiple times, prosecutors allege.
When Cpl. Michael Middlebrook arrived at the scene, Howard had allegedly armed himself with a second gun and shot the officer from inside the store, and he shot at a second responding officer as he fled the scene, prosecutors claim in court filings.
Body cam footage of the responding Lafayette Police officers taken at the scene of the shooting was also shown to the judge.
The first witness called by the state to take the stand was Sgt. Bridget Karn with the Lafayette Police Department who said that her body cam was not on at the time of the shooting, but said that when she arrived, Middlebrook was already dead.
Karn said that she spoke with the manager of the store where the shooting took place, and followed where Howard had allegedly fled.
The next witness was Cpl. Paul Crozier with LPD, who testified about his body cam footage of the shooting.
During his body cam footage, which was not shown directly to the court's audience, Crozier can be heard asking someone to identify the suspect.
On Crozier's footage, a voice perceived to be Howard, can be heard saying, “It wasn’t me; it’s a black guy.”
Defense attorney Elliot Brown then asked Crozier, “Did you seek to get any information?”
“Not to my knowledge,” responded Crozier.
Brown then asked, “Any intentions to ask him about the crime?”
Crozier said, “No.”
Also in the body cam video, a voice perceived to be Howard can be heard continuously saying, "water, water, water."
Assistant District Attorney Alan Haney, asked Crozier if it was possible if Howard was trying to distract the officers. Crozier said it was.
The third witness to take the stand Wednesday was Cpl. Joshua Stelly with LPD as his body cam footage of the incident was shown before the judge.
In his video, Stelly appears to start running towards the alleged suspect, Howard. Stelly is also heard yelling to him saying, “Put your f***ing hands up!”
Stelly then tells Haney at this point in the footage, "Officer down. They are looking for a suspect. Yes, dangerous situation.”
Stelly also says Howard was not showing his hands, and that he could not see what was underneath him.
Stelly was asked if Howard was talking to officers. He said "Yes. (He was) saying statements, like 'water water water.' But they were not in response to any questions."
Howard is also apparently heard in this footage saying, “He tried to rob my car, then shot a police officer.”
All three officers have said that Howard was not read his Miranda Rights. They also say that Howard was not properly handcuffed, because he was handcuffed in front of his body. He was also beaten in the head with a flash flight.
Stelly testified that Howard was still not being compliant, but said that he was bleeding from the head.
Stelly also testified that Howard continued to say, "It wasn’t me, it was a black guy in a black shirt." But, no officer got off of him and asked him questions.
At one point in the video, Stelly testifies that a Sgt. Thibodeaux said, “You should have shot the suspect if you knew it was him.”
Stelly also testified that he said in a statement it seemed as if Howard was under the influence of something because “he kept saying, 'water, water, water.' (That) was not normal.”
Haney then redirected by asking, "Why would you say, 'I will shoot you?'"
Stelly responded, “You use verbal commands to get them to comply.”
"Did that comment work?" Haney asked. "Did he comply?
“No,” Stelly answered.
The court will hear testimony from another four witnesses later in the day.
So far, all witnesses have described the scenario as dangerous, and have also said there was not the time to read Howard his rights and ask questions. They have said that Howard was not coherent and would possibly not understand. They say that he was also forcefully resisting arrest.
When the court returned Monday afternoon, Segus Joilvette with LPD took the stand and was asked by prosecutors what he saw the night of the shooting.
Joilvette said that he saw a man walk from the side of the building. He said, "I saw who shot the officer, (a) black guy ran into the woods."
Joilvette testified that they were looking for someone armed and dangerous while searching for a gun. He said they saw a man, later identified as Howard, crouched in the coulee.
Haney then played Joilvette's body cam footage, where Howard could apparently be heard saying, "read me my Miranda Rights, read me my Miranda Rights."
Haney then asked Joilvette if he had heard Howard say that and if it was a good time to read him his rights.
Joilvette testified that that he did not hear that.
"It was not a good time to read rights, because you want to make sure they are a little more calmer," Joilvette said.
Joilvette told the court Howard was no being compliant with officers' commands.
In the video, Joilvette is heard asking Howard, "(Are) you going to walk or do we have to drag you?"
Howard is heard saying, "Yes, I'm going to walk."
"He continued to sit there," Joilvette said. "I gave him the chance to walk. He did not take it. We drug him."
According to the witness testimonies, Howard rolled backwards once they drug him up the coulee, and started to run away towards police on Moss Street. His hands were cuffed in front of him due to the struggle.
Joilvette also testified in court that he is the officer who hit Howard in the middle front of his head several times with a 3 lb metal flashlight "strong enough to get him to start complying."
In a preliminary hearing, Joilvette testified that he thought Howard was under the influence of something because "normal people wouldn't behave in that manner."
Cpl. Dylan Smith also testified about his experience during the shooting. He said he was responded to the call of a black male wearing all black shooting inside the store.
Smith did not have a body cam on because it was dead after he worked a 12 hour shift, and was going into overtime.
He told Haney they were looking for someone suspicious and another officer pointed to a white male wearing a white shirt and they ran to assist the other officers.
Smith said they did not question him, but did detain him.
Smith testifies that he was given orders to take him into custody and drive him to the police station.
The court then watched video footage from inside Smith's vehicle. However, there is no audio because Smith was driving an older unit because his own was being repaired.
According to the testimony, the video shows Howard running away again at some point. The footage also shows Howard kicking the doors, banging his head into the metal cage and talking.
Smith told the court that Howard was swearing, yelling and asking for a Pepsi.
Once officers got Howard into a holding cell, there was another struggle.
Smith testified that he kicked Howard to bring him down to the ground. He was then forced to leave the room.
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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