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February 08, 2017

12 Charged in Amite Inmate Murder Described as “Shark Feeding Frenzy”

Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Office Press Release February 7, 2017
Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards reports that multiple arrests were made in connection to the tragic death of 40 year old Tommy Joe Smith of Independence, LA.

On January 30, 2017, at approximately 11:00 p.m., 40- year old Tommy Joe Smith of Independence, LA. was arrested by Probation and Patrol and booked into the parish jail on a probation violation.    After being booked and processed, Smith was escorted to and placed in a dorm room that was occupied by twenty-one other inmates, making Smith the twenty-second. 

An investigation led by the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office (TPSO) Criminal Investigations Division reveals that shortly after Smith arrived in the dorm, he attempted to establish himself in a bunk on the second floor.  Allegedly at this time, Smith was told by other inmates that he wasn’t welcome on the second floor and needed to leave.   Smith then grabbed his matt and proceeded back downstairs.  Being compliant and non-confrontational, Smith was again met with the same adversity as he attempted to find a bunk on the first floor.   In over 40 interviews conducted by TPSO detectives, it was revealed that Smith, complying with the aggressive demands, was attempting to make his way to notify the pod deputy of his request to vacate the dorm when he was abruptly struck by an inmate from behind.   As Smith turned around to defend himself, he was brutally attacked my multiple offenders.   The vicious attack which occurred after lights out was described by other inmates as a “shark feeding frenzy”.  Meaning the attack was extremely brutal and very quick.

Upon recognition of the disturbance, the control deputy notified jail staff of the incident.   Within minutes, responding deputies entered the dorm and gained control.  They also observed one of Smith’s attackers attempting to facilitate CPR on Smith’s lifeless body.   Immediately the jail’s medical staff was notified and quickly responded to render aid.   Acadian and Amite Fire were also notified, arriving a short time later.

Consequently, Smith succumbed to death as a result of injuries sustained from this senseless and heinous attacked.  

As a result, 12 offenders were arrested for this brutal attack on Smith’s life, one of them being a juvenile offender. 11 of the offenders are charged with Second degree murder and Obstruction of justice, 2 of the 11 were additionally charged with Second Degree robbery for stealing Smith’s shoes while he was being attacked.  The juvenile, who is currently being held on unrelated homicide charges, was additionally charged with Principal to second to degree murder. 

“News of this unprovoked and heinous attack is extremely troubling. We strive to provide safety to all those in Tangipahoa Parish, including those incarcerated within the Tangipahoa Parish Jail. Through an investigative account of this incident, it has been discovered all protocols relating to a response to such an event were preformed expeditiously. Unfortunately, due to the number of individuals involved in the altercation, along with the incident occurring within a secured environment, our victim was limited with an escape. This type of environment provides many limitations when taking into account the safety of staff, emergency medical responders, as well as the inmates themselves,” says Edwards.        

Sheriff Edwards and the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office considers this a senseless and tragic event and our thoughts and prayers are with the Smith family.  Sheriff Edwards pledges to have a full review of this incident to see if there is anything that the TPSO can do to ensure that this type of tragedy does not happen again.
Offenders charged in this case are the following:

20 year old Herman Bagent, 30 year old Brent Collins, 22 year old Lionel Brister, 27 year old Randall Holmes, 23 year old James Milton, 18 year old Eric Newman, 22 year old William Patterson, 22 year old Tyquan Davis, 19 year old Antwon Seymore, 38 year old Ronald Faulkner, 28 year old Travis Robertson, and one juvenile.  Faulkner and Robertson were among the group who were accused of stealing the victim’s shoes during the attack, therefore were charged with Second degree robbery.

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