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March 01, 2024

LaKendall Brown Found Guilty of Manslaughter in Bogalusa High School Shooting

Interim District Attorney Collin Sims reports that on February 29, 2024, a Washington Parish jury found 19-year-old LaKendall Brown guilty of Manslaughter in the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Jerry Smith. The jury also found Brown guilty on related charges of Obstruction of justice and Carrying a firearm on school property. Doug Freese, the District Attorney’s Office Chief of Criminal Division/Chief of Trials, and Assistant District Attorney Jason Cuccia prosecuted the case. District Judge Alan Zaunbrecher presided over the trial. Following the verdict, District Attorney Sims said, “This is one of two homicide cases brought to trial in Washington Parish this week. We are going to aggressively pursue violent criminals in Bogalusa. We are coming. The citizens of this community deserve a safer place to live. I vow not to let up until that is a reality.”

During the trial, prosecutors presented the jury with casings and projectiles recovered from the scene, and expert testimony elicited from St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office firearms examiner Jene Rauch established that a total of 19 shots were fired from three different firearms during the incident. Two of those gunshots came from a gun recovered immediately adjacent to Smith’s body. There were two separate clusters of casings on the crime scene, arguably demonstrating that one person fired eight rounds at Smith and a second person fired nine rounds at Smith. This deadly shooting incident occurred in the immediate vicinity of the Bogalusa High School football stadium while the school’s homecoming football game was underway. The stadium was filled with football players, game officials and hundreds of spectators.

The defense asserted to the jury that the victim shot first and that whoever shot Smith did so in self-defense. The defense additionally claimed that Brown was unarmed and had no involvement in the shooting. That claim was refuted by a witness who did not see Brown shooting a gun but did see Brown with a gun in his hands seconds after the gunfire ended.

Prosecutors conceded during their opening statement that it would be impossible to prove who fired first, but contended that it did not matter because the shooters involved were aggressors and none of them was justified in asserting self-defense. In closing arguments at the conclusion of the trial, Assistant District Attorney Doug Freese told the jury, “Your verdict, in this case will answer whether people, who bring on a difficulty by carrying weapons to places they are not permitted, can claim self-defense when they choose to engage in a gunfight.”

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The jury deliberated for approximately four hours before reaching its verdict. Sentencing is scheduled for April 10, 2024. Manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of forty years in prison. Obstruction of Justice also carries a maximum penalty of forty years in prison, while Illegal possession of a firearm on school property a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Bogalusa Police Department Detectives Justin Blackwell, Casey Hidalgo and Tyler Lindsey led the investigation and testified in support of the prosecution.

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