Local News

Attorney: Former Head of LSP Cleared by La. Board of Ethics

The attorney for Former Louisiana State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson says Edmonson has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. However, federal prosecutors Thursday refused to comment on the attorney’s claim.
The former head of state police was accused of assigning troopers to shuttle family members on personal trips, getting free meals that he should have paid for, and letting friends and family members stay in hotel rooms meant for troopers during Mardi Gras.
Edmonson retired after the allegations were raised in a state audit released in 2017.
His attorney, Grey Sexton, said Thursday the Louisiana Board of Ethics has investigated matters raised in the scathing state audit and closed the file without recommending any prosecution.“All of the investigatory matters have been concluded,” Sexton said.
Sexton says he has conferred with all agencies involved, including the U.S. Attorney’s office, and no agency has an active investigation against Edmonson.
U.S. Attorney Brandon Fremin, through a spokesperson, declined to comment Thursday citing a vague and inconsistent policy that the office frequently uses to avoid answering questions from the media.
“In response to your earlier question regarding Mike Edmonson, the U.S. Attorney’s Office cannot confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation/matter,” said U.S. Attorney Public Information Officer Holly Sheets.
However, the same office confirmed in 2017 it was indeed investigating the Edmonson matter.
Then acting U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson confirmed that his office “has been and will continue coordinating with State Police” on this matter, according to a 2017 report in The Advocate newspaper.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office does have a history of announcing when someone has been cleared of a federal investigation so it is unclear why it will not comment on the Edmonson case.
For example, in 2017, the office held a news conference to announce it had cleared two Baton Rouge police officers of any wrongdoing in the Alton Sterling shooting case.
As for the Edmonson investigation, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office in 2017 found the former head of state police may have broken state law on several occasions during his time as the state’s top law enforcement officer.
The audit detailed alleged abuse of power by Col. Mike Edmonson during his more than nine years as state police superintendent. The claims ranged from using state troopers to shuttle his family members to casinos to giving his family and friends hotel rooms meant for troopers during Mardi Gras to having inmates walk the family dog.
Those allegations included:
  • Edmonson allegedly got free meals from the state police cafeteria that auditors believe he should have paid for.
  • Edmonson allegedly let family members bring their personal vehicles to the state police fleet operations center for free minor repairs, car washes, and detailing. One trooper said his secretary kept notes of when these incidents allegedly happened.
  • Edmonson allegedly got his uniforms dry-cleaned at the Governor’s Mansion while also being given an allowance from state police for the same purpose.
  • During Mardi Gras, Edmonson allegedly let friends and family stay for free in hotel rooms in New Orleans meant for state troopers, including at the five-star Windsor Court Hotel.
  • Assigning troopers to drive his wife and other family members on personal trips including visits to casinos.
Edmonson did not immediately reply to a text message seeking comment Thursday. https://www.ksla.com/2019/08/15/attorney-former-head-lsp-cleared-by-la-board-ethics/

Ft. Polk Leaders Meet with More Residents at Housing Town Hall

On Wednesday night, the Fort Polk command team along with Corvias representatives met residents at Dogwood community center for a town hall.

Brigadier General Patrick Frank and Command Sergeant Major David Bass stopped to chat with people in the neighborhood on their way to the meeting. It is part of an ongoing effort to address housing concerns after complaints across several military installations made national headlines.

Since then, Corvias has vowed to improve across the board. Their latest update about energy saving upgrades was announced last month. The contractor expects the project to be completed by early next year.

Wednesday’s town hall was not open to the media, but a News Channel 5 reached out to Corvias. A representative said it was a positive meeting.

“The team feels like the work they’ve been doing has been recognized and most importantly, it is making a very positive difference for the families.”


Louisiana School Systems Work to Recover from Cyber Attacks

Cyber attacks targeting several Louisiana school districts last month prompted the declaration of emergency across the state. Now as students head back to class, some of the school systems are still in recovery mode.

Sabine Parish schools Superintendent Sara Ebarb said the district has overcome most of the problems caused by the cyber attack but is still not 100 percent. They have close to 1,100 computers working and have access to their network.

This means teachers are able to use things like their smart boards and tablets in the classroom.

“We were hit with an electronic virus called Ryuk. This was early morning July 21st. When that happened, it locked down our servers and encrypted our data. The experts are telling us that it wasn’t a virus that steals data but actually locks it down and encrypts it,” said Ebarb.

Then, attackers ask for bitcoins and in return, they promised to give back access to the server and all the data. However, Ebarb said, they will not negotiate with terrorists.

“Well, it’s an organized crime organization that operates on the dark web. What they want is for us to pay them in bitcoins to unlock the data. And, of course, they are cyber terrorist and we are not negotiating with terrorist so we just gotta move on,” Ebarb said.

The attack meant the district’s entire server was inaccessible, putting the system into chaos just weeks before school was scheduled to start.

The Louisiana National Guard sent a team to Sabine Parish that included both military and civilian computer experts. Also, an expert from Microsoft was sent to help rebuild their network.

The superintendent added, her team has been working hard since the attack.

In nearby DeSoto Parish, the school system was targeted but not infected. School leaders took aggressive security measures to avoid getting the virus.

DeSoto Parish schools Superintendent Clay Corley said when they learned the district was being targeted they locked down their own system.

They are accessing their own server little by little. He compared the situation to a bomb threat and explained they are looking for any possible weaknesses in their system.

“If there were a bomb threat on one of your campuses you would go into lock down, you would search every locker, you would search every room, you would go through every inch of the campus to make sure they are no threats remaining before you come out of lock down. This is what we are doing,” Corley said.

This is why they are not 100 percent back online. However, he said they are about 25 percent away from reaching their goal.

Tangipahoa Parish schools, Morehouse Parish schools and Monroe City schools were also impacted by cyber attacks.


Spillway Repairs Resume at Toledo Bend

For those living in or near the Sabine River Valley, they’ve seen the best of times and the worst of times.

However, some long-awaited spillway repairs which prompted a recent draw down of the Toledo Bend Lake has some residents on alert.

“We were here when they had the record low a few years back and I have a boat dock on the water with my boat in it and it was so low that I couldn’t keep it there any longer,” said Mike Wilson.

Wilson and his wife have lived on Toledo Bend for years, so checking lake levels are part of their routine.

“Typically the levels are in a normal range, pretty easy for people on the lake,” said Willis.

Although, with the level down to 166 feet over the last two weeks, some residents have wondered what’s going on.

7News caught up with the Louisiana Sabine River Authority Executive Director, Warren Found who said the low levels are due to continuation of their spillway repair project.

In April, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) directed the Sabine River Authority of Texas (SRA-TX) and Sabine River Authority, State of Louisiana (SRA-LA) to expedite completion of the ongoing spillway repairs.

Found said the repairs are necessary to replace the large rip-rap (boulders) protecting the end of the spillway that were removed or destroyed during previous spilling operations.

It’s a result of a spill in 2016 when we had record water levels, record releases, record river levels..all kinds of records were broken in March of 2016,” said Warren Found. “What we thought was maybe just moving a little bit of rock around and patching cement turned into a $9 million project.”

That project was stalled since August of 2018 due to numerous heavy rain events, but Found says now was the best time to start the project back up.

“Next week we’ll turn both units off, so the reservoir should remain close to that level and probably for the next two and a half months until the project comes to a part where we feel like it’s safe to let it start rising again,” Found said.

The repair project which began in August 2018 initially began with plans to hold the reservoir level at the 168′ elevation by releasing water through hydro-generation until the project is complete.

Although the low levels signals good news for those who like to fish and not so good news for those who may keep boats docked at nearby camps, Mike Wilson said he prefers to look at the bright side.

“We only worry if the dam breaks,” said Wilson.

In compliance with FERC’s directives, the Toledo Bend Project Joint Operating Board met on April 9, 2019 and approved a temporary lake level draw down, through hydro-generation. The timing of the temporary draw down will be dependent on weather conditions and the contractor’s ability to complete the work.

Since it has been several years since a significant draw down has occurred, this will be a good opportunity for residents along the shoreline to inspect and make necessary repairs to boathouses, piers, retaining walls, and related structures. Construction approval applications for this type of activity can be obtained from the SRA-TX Toledo Bend Division Office (409-565-2273) for Texas residents or from the SRA-LA Pendleton Office (318-256-4112) for Louisiana residents.

Once all the necessary repairs are made to the spillway, the lake will be allowed to return to the regular operating guide as conditions allow.

Found said they expect the project to be finished by November, weather permitting.


Amber Alert Canceled After Texas 13-Year-Old Found Safe in Oklahoma

Montgomery, Texas police confirm that a young teenager has been found safe.

Police say that Kiah Miller, 13, was reported missing on Tuesday. She had moved to Texas from Oklahoma to live with her father and stepmother. Police confirm that her maternal grandmother had picked up Kiah and taken her back to Oklahoma without her father’s permission.

She is safe and her mother is returning her to Texas.

DeRidder Police Handle Incident with Former Walmart Employee

There was a situation at the DeRidder Walmart with a former employee, according to DeRidder Police Chief Craig Richard.

Richard says there have been no reported shootings at the Walmart in DeRidder Wednesday night.

An upset employee was let go and asked to leave. DeRidder Police were called in, according to Richard, but the situation was handled without further incident and the disgruntled former employee eventually left.


School Board Meeting

The Sabine Parish School Board will hold a regular board meeting Monday, August 19, 2019 at 6 p.m. in the Sabine Parish School Board Board Room, 695 Peterson Street in Many.

State Seeks Death For Mom Accused in Baby’s Burning Death

Louisiana is seeking the death penalty for a woman charged with first-degree murder in the death of her 6-month-old son.

The Alexandria Town Talk reports the state has filed notice to seek death for Hanna Nicole Barker over the July death of Levi Cole Ellerbe.

Barker was arrested last month about a week after she reported Levi had been kidnapped by men who pepper-sprayed her. A motorist reported a fire nearby Barker’s home about an hour later and Levi was found at scene with third- and second-degree burns covering 90% of his body. He died the next day.

Authorities say Barker asked her girlfriend Felicia Marie-Nicole Smith to kill Levi. Smith is also charged with first-degree murder and has a hearing later this month.

Elizabeth Man Killed in Beauregard Parish Crash

Louisiana State Police Troop D responded to a single-vehicle crash on August 12 around 5 p.m. on Hwy 112 near Tom Woodward Road. The crash claimed the life of Paul D. Doyle, 66, of Elizabeth.

The initial investigation revealed a 2018 Peterbilt 18-wheeler (log truck) driven by Doyle was traveling east on LA Hwy 112. For unknown reasons, the log truck ran off the right side of the road and struck a utility pole. The log truck then rolled over onto its roof, trapping the driver.

Doyle was transported to a DeRidder area hospital, but later died due to his injuries. It is unknown at this time if he was wearing a seatbelt due to the extent of damage in the cab.

Impairment is unknown, but toxicology samples were taken from the driver for analysis. This crash remains under investigation. There is no further information available at this time.

Louisiana State Troopers would like to take this opportunity to remind motorists to always make good decisions while operating motor vehicles. Never drive while impaired, fatigued, or distracted, always ensure every occupant is properly restrained, and follow all traffic laws. While not all crashes are survivable, taking simple precautions such as these can often mean the difference between life and death.


Man Considered Armed and Dangerous Now in Police Custody

Shreveport police say a man they considered armed and dangerous is now in custody.

Leondray Sanders Jr., 24, was wanted in connection to an Aug. 11 home invasion.

During the home invasion, Sanders flashed a handgun at the homeowners after forcing his way into the house, according to SPD Ofc. Christina Curtis.

Sanders is 6″ tall and weighs 160 pounds.

Authorities urged anyone with any information regarding Sanders’ whereabouts to contact Shreveport-Caddo Crime Stoppers by calling (318) 673-7373, visiting the organization’s website, lockemup.org, or using the P3Tips app.


Nacogdoches Crime Stoppers Offering Reward for Info on Aggravated Robbery Suspect

Nacogdoches Crime Stoppers has issued a wanted bulletin for an aggravated robbery suspect.

The organization posted the bulletin for Terrance “JR” Bernard Whitaker, 23, on its Facebook page. He is wanted on a first-degree felony aggravated robbery charge.

The bulletin states that Whitaker is considered “armed and dangerous.”

“Nacogdoches Crime Stoppers will pay a cash reward of up to $1,000 for the first, most accurate tip called in or sent directly to Crime Stoppers that leads to an arrest,” the bulletin states.”All information is confidential, and you never have to give your name.”

Tips may be submitted on the Crime Stoppers website. Tipsters may also call the Crime Stoppers hotline at (936) 560-4636. The bulletin states that Nacogdoches is the sole judge of reward payments.


‘In God We Trust’ Motto to Appear in Every Louisiana Public School this Fall

The words ‘In God We Trust’ will be displayed in every Louisiana public school starting this fall.

Louisiana Senate Bill 244 was signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards in May 2018. The bill requires every school to display the national motto and educate students on its history when the 2019-2020 school year begins.

“I still feel strongly that America is a Christian nation,” said Shelby Ainsworth, principal of West Monroe High School. “I want our high school youngsters exposed to as much as that as possible.”

Each school can choose how they want to display the national motto, but there is a minimum requirement of at least a paper sign. At West Monroe High School, dozens of posters can be seen along the walls in each building.

Principal Ainsworth says he supports Edwards’ decision, but is aware he might have some students or parents that would disagree.

“There are varied opinions even amongst high school students, their parents, the communities, the different churches that are represented, different faiths that we have,” said Ainsworth. “It’s nothing hidden, it’s nothing swept under the rug, but it’s nothing forced upon anyone.”

West Monroe students return back to school on Monday, August 12th.


Fort Polk Man Accused of Firing into Crowd at Vernon Parish Club, Striking Three

A Fort Polk man is accused of firing into a crowd at a club in the Billy Goat Hill area in the early hours of Sunday morning, striking three people, according to Vernon Parish officials.

Sheriff Sam Craft said in a news release that Andrez Shamad Jones, 25, got a gun from a vehicle following a disturbance that began in the bar and continued in the parking lot. Authorities received the report of shots fired around 1:34 a.m. The Billy Goat Hill area is south of New Llano.

Jones fired at least six shots into the crowd, striking one person in the calf of his leg and two other people in the ankles, Craft said. Numerous shoes were left in the parking lot, as well as other items left behind from the fleeing crowd.

“Witnesses indicated that attempts were made to restrain Jones but Jones immediately began to recklessly fire the handgun towards the crowd causing the large group of people to hysterically flee in an attempt to get away from Jones,” Craft said in the news release.

When deputies arrived, two people had already been taken to a hospital for treatment, but the man with a gunshot wound to his calf was still at the scene.

Jones was identified as the suspect and a 9 mm firearm was taken into evidence.

Jones was arrested on three counts of aggravated second-degree battery with a firearm and one count of illegal discharge of a firearm. Bond has not been set.


DeSoto Seeks Help Finding Missing Mansfield Man

he 37-year-old man last was seen in the Mansfield area.

Now the DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s help in locating Robert Charles “Charlie” Ross Jr.

The Mansfield resident last was seen July 28, authorities report.

Ross stands about 6′4″ tall, weighs 225 pounds and last was seen wearing a white tank top and blue jeans.

Authorities urge anyone who sees Ross or who knows where he is to call DeSoto sheriff’s investigators at (318) 872-3956.


Former Fort Bragg Warrant Officer Charged with Stealing

 Federal authorities have charged a soldier formerly stationed at Fort Bragg with stealing military property.

Bryan Craig Allen of Anacoco, Louisiana, was indicted Tuesday on charges of theft of military property, conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.

Prosecutors said Allen used his position as a chief warrant officer and property book officer for the 4th Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group to delete items from inventory lists, stealing more than $2 million in property from December 2016 through June 2018.

The stolen property included 43 enhanced night vision goggles. Court documents suggest that Allen sold the goggles to the owner of a military surplus store in Fayetteville.

Three other men have been charged in the investigation, which dates to 2013. Authorities said in court papers that additional targets will be charged.