On Saturday, July 21, 2018, a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer fired the bullet that struck and killed a Trader Joe’s employee when LAPD officers exchanged gunfire with a suspect in an attempted murder case. The officer who killed the Trader Joe’s employee was chasing the suspect who was suspected of shooting his grandmother hours earlier in the day and had led officers on a high speed chase in the Hollywood area. After the suspect crashed his car into a utility pole next to the Trader Joe’s store, he fired at police and ran into the store. The officers who were pursuing the suspect returned fire. One of the officers’ bullets struck the Trader Joe’s employee, killing her. After the suspect ran into the market, he shot several more times at police from inside Trader Joe’s and took several customers hostage.
The Charges Against the Suspect
The suspect faces several charges including murder, kidnapping, fleeing a pursing peace officer’s vehicle, grand theft, premeditated attempted murder, attempted murder of a peace officer, assault on a peace officer with a semiautomatic firearm, and false imprisonment of a hostage. Of particular note is that fact that the suspect was charged with the murder of the Trader Joe’s employee although he did not fire the bullet that ended up killing the employee. The suspect was apparently arrested in part with the felony murder of the Trader Joe’s employee. Felony murder is a death caused by a defendant committing or attempting to commit a limited number of inherently dangerous felonies. The dangerous felonies include the litany of felonies listed above.
Why the Suspect Could Not Be Found Guilty of Murder in Louisiana
If the event occurred in Louisiana, although the suspect could be convicted of statutory crimes similar to those in California, the suspect could not be convicted of murder in Louisiana. That is because in Louisiana, felony murder is committed only when the defendant or one of his accomplices is the shooter. The defendant is not responsible for a murder in Louisiana when a person in an encounter is killed by a police officer. Stated differently, a felony murder is only committed in Louisiana when the offender is engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of a felony such as aggravated kidnapping, second degree kidnapping, aggravated escape, aggravated arson, aggravated or first degree rape, forcible or second degree rape, aggravated burglary, armed robbery, assault by drive-by shooting, first degree robbery, second degree robbery, simple robbery, terrorism, cruelty to juveniles, or second degree cruelty to juveniles.
Because Louisiana has adopted the agency theory, which states that felony murder does not extend those deaths resulting from the commission of an enumerated felony if not committed by the defendant or one of his accomplices, the suspect could not be guilty of murder in Louisiana. Some states, however, have adopted the proximate cause theory in felony murder cases. Under the proximate cause theory, a defendant is liable for “any death proximately resulting from the unlawful activity—notwithstanding the fact that the killing was by a police officer or other person who was resisting the crime. The proximate cause theory also requires that the death be a foreseeable consequence of the felony. Of course, death of an innocent bystander is a foreseeable consequence of a shootout with the police, a high speed chase, kidnappings, and attempted murder of police officers.
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This information has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney in connection with any specific situation under federal and/or Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may impose additional obligations on you and/or your family member. © 2018 Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law. Published July 25, 2018.