A Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy shot and killed a suspected tire thief who investigators said tried to fire a gun at him during a Tuesday night encounter caught on video inside a Metairie newspaper warehouse.
Sheriff Newell Normand said his deputy was “one of the luckiest men in America” after burglary suspect Devon Martes’ gun jammed during a split-second face-off that ended with the 17-year-old dead from several shots just blocks from his home.
After watching the video, Martes’ parents said they understood why the shooting happened.
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Normand used the incident as a springboard to sound off on the larger issue of police shootings. “It’s this mentality and this lifestyle — that we don’t think enough of ourselves to really give a damn about our own life,” he said to explain the frequency with which people are shot by officers.
The chain of events that ended with Martes’ death began when dispatchers received several calls about two people rolling tires near a new car lot at Richland Avenue and Ford Street about 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies did not know it yet, but four tires were missing from a new, King Ranch-branded Ford F-150 parked inside the lot. An employee at the lot estimated they would retail for more than $4,000.
Deputies began to “flood the area,” according to Normand, and one of them spotted Martes. The 17-year-old then hopped a fence from the tire lot onto the grounds of The Times-Picayune’s former East Jefferson bureau, 4013 N. I-10 Service Road, which is now used as a newspaper warehouse.
Martes ran into the building and tried to hide, according to Normand. Warehouse surveillance video captured the moment when an officer identified by the Sheriff’s Office as Deputy David Dalton followed him in pursuit.
The video shows the two figures facing off at each other. The video is grainy and difficult to make out, but both figures appear to raise guns at each other before Martes’ body crumples to the ground.
Martes tried to fire a 9mm handgun with an obliterated serial number and 22 rounds in an extended clip and one round in the chamber, Normand said, but the gun malfunctioned. Dalton fired six shots at Martes, according to the Sheriff’s Office, killing him.
Dr. Granville Morse, the deputy coroner for Jefferson Parish, said an autopsy found Martes suffered “distant-range gunshot wounds to the head, abdomen and leg.” He did not say how many times Martes was hit.
The second suspect in the theft of the tires remains at large, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Normand spoke at length at an afternoon news conference about Martes’ criminal history, social media posts where the teenager was said to boast about guns and drugs, and recent protests over police shootings .
He called it an irony that the shooting was caught on a media company’s surveillance cameras, given the media’s coverage of controversial police shootings.
“Had those cameras not been there, this story would probably not have been believed,” Normand said. “But when we stand up here and tell these stories, the level of cynicism and skepticism is sometimes insurmountable. But it happens, every day, across this country.”
Normand’s voice rose as he spoke about Martes.
“Devon Martes is not the victim,” he repeated several times. “He was going to act out to be a cold-blooded killer. He’s not a victim.”
Normand displayed the handgun he said Martes used in the encounter, as well as marijuana that deputies said they found on his body. He also held up a series of social media posts that he said Martes wrote. The posts provided a window into the youth’s mindset, Normand said.
“Let’s look at his Facebook page. See the gun,” Normand said. “Let’s look at the caption: ‘She say she like my swag, be cutting up.’ ”
Normand then pulled up another printout said to be from one of Martes’ social media posts. “This is an interesting one,” he said, before reading off a caption. “‘Bitch, I live the life of a young street n***a,’” Normand quoted Martes as writing.
“Money, drugs and yet another gun,” Normand continued. “Does he look like a victim to you? He doesn’t look like a victim to me.”
A Twitter page where the Sheriff’s Office said Martes created some posts had been placed in private mode Wednesday evening, making it inaccessible to the public, although it was unclear when that happened.
“The fact of the matter is (this was) a split-second decision, one in which we could be this morning planning a funeral of a deputy,” Normand said of the shooting.
Instead, that task was left to Martes’ family, who live on Lake Villa Drive near where the shooting happened. Friends and acquaintances gathered outside the apartment to console each other Wednesday morning.
Several teenage boys shouted out in anger over Martes’ death as reporters approached. But Alesia Martes and Glen Parker, who identified themselves as his parents, said that after watching the footage of the fatal encounter, they understood why the deputy shot their son.
Both said they were grief-stricken by their son’s death but had no objection to Dalton’s actions.
Parker said Dalton did “what any officer would do when you point a gun at an officer.”
Normand said he appreciated Parker’s statement. “It’s one of the most honest statements that I’ve heard in a very, very long time, and it’s probably a very tough statement,” Normand said. “Maybe that’s the beginning of the turnaround in the dialogue. I feel for him. I do.”
Alesia Martes said her son was at home until about 11 p.m., when he got a telephone call and left. “I came downstairs, and he was gone,” she said.
Devon Martes was one of 11 children and was the youngest boy, according to Parker. His son had several brushes with the law in recent years, Parker said, but he had no idea that Devon Martes possessed a gun.
Parker said he believed his son had fallen under the influence of friends. “You get caught up in these streets,” he said. “I could only talk to my son and instill in him the right things to do.”
Parker said he is trying to reconcile happy memories of the days when his son would jump on the back of his bike as he rode off to work with the violent manner of his death.
“These are the things I’m going through,” Parker said. “He should have been here.”
Source: The Advocate