DA: Grand jury exonerates officer involved in fatal shooting of Juston Landry

Landry had BB gun that looked similar to Ruger 9mm
Updated: Apr. 4, 2019 at 4:14 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A grand jury in state district court on Thursday declined to indict a Lake Charles Police Department officer involved in the fatal shooting of Juston Landry in January.

Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier said the grand jury was presented with three potential charges against patrolman Jonathan Landrum and declined charges in all three.

DeRosier said the decision “effectively concludes criminal prosecution in the case” from his office.

“This is truly a tragic, tragic event,” DeRosier said. “Not only for the family who’s lost their son, their brother, their child, but for the police officer’s family. It’s just a sad and unfortunate event and so tragic.”

DeRosier confirmed that Juston Landry had a BB gun on him, although DeRosier said the BB gun looked Ruger 9mm.

“I suspect that this BB gun was manufactured and patterned after this model Ruger,” DeRosier said, holding up both guns. “It looks almost identical to it.”

Landry was shot and killed on Jan. 11, 2019. Landrum, a member of the Lake Charles Police Department since 2015, was responding to a threat of a man with a gun at the RaceWay gas station in the 1200 block of Martin Luther King Hwy. He located Landry down the street - the shooting took place in the 1000 block of MLK, near the intersection with Pineview Street.

Police Chief Shawn Caldwell, who was in his first week as chief when Landry was shot, said Landry was shot five times, once near his right ear, once near his right wrist, twice in the right side and once in the back.

During the news conference, DeRosier showed a five-minute clip of interviews, surveillance video and body cam video.

“We were greatly disappointed,” said Derrick Kee, attorney for the Landry family. “The entire family was disappointed, disturbed by not only the decision of the grand jury, but disturbed by the notion that the community is somehow OK with the outcome of this case. We’re very disappointed.”

Kee said the family planned to pursue other measures.

“This is definitely not over,” Kee said. “It’s our intention to prosecute this civilly to the full extent of the law and also to look into other options, including bringing in the Department of Justice to do full investigation of police and community interaction in this community.”

Watch the full news conference below.

Caldwell said Landrum, who remains on administrative leave, will return to the force.

“We plan to implement him back into the police department, but we’re going to take our time with that,” Caldwell said. “Initially he’s going to take an administrative role before we put him back on the street.”

DeRosier said Landry had a history of mental health issues and had “numerous encounters with the criminal justice system.”

“There’s a lot of accountability to go around, starting with the criminal justice system,” DeRosier said.

Among those DeRosier said were accountable:

- Criminal justice system: DeRosier said Landry had been placed in mental health court and had told police and his family that he had mental health issues and needed help. Landry was dropped from mental health court when he didn’t show up. DeRosier also said Landry had violated his probation numerous times, but the court system didn’t do anything to him.

- Landry’s family: DeRosier said Landry committed numerous offenses relative to his family, which they chose not to prosecute. “It’s understandable, but that contributed to his problems.”

- The community: DeRosier said many people knew Landry had mental health issues, but no one worked to get him the help he needed.

“Where we need go from here, we need to address those issues,” DeRosier said. "We need to bring back to the forefront our treatment of people who have mental issues and need our help.

“Unfortunately this is not an isolated case. We have many people throughout this parish, this state and this country who need mental help and kind of cry out for help. They don’t always get it.”

Key said, though, that bringing up Landry’s mental health issues was an effort “to demonize the victim.”

“Somehow they missed the point that today the system has failed in a greater way than it has in the past,” Kee said. “He had an opportunity to be treated with dignity and with respect and be treated like a victim. We heard a lot more about Juston did then we heard about Mr. Landrum, how he hunted Mr. Landry down. Mr. Landrum, the police officer, shot at him as he was running away from Mr. Landrum.”

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