NEW ORLEANS — Police today arrested a man suspected of fatally shooting a police officer and critically wounding two sheriff's deputies after setting a deadly fire at a mobile home near a south Louisiana casino.
A Chitimacha tribal officer was pronounced dead at the scene of the shootings in Charenton, while two St. Mary Parish sheriff's deputies were critically wounded and taken to local hospitals, said Louisiana State Police Trooper Stephen Hammons.
Hammons said investigators found the burned remains of a man after extinguishing a fire at a mobile home that Wilbert Thibodeaux, 48, is suspecting of setting before the officers confronted him.
Hammons said the officers were responding to a report of an armed man walking down a road near the Cypress Bayou Casino when Thibodeaux allegedly shot them.
Thibodaux was treated for a gunshot wound that wasn't considered life-threatening, according to Hammons, who said investigators were questioning him Saturday evening.
The casino is run by the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana and is less than a quarter-mile from the scene of the shootings. Hammons said the shootings occurred near but not on tribal land.
"Everybody is just in shock. It's small-town America," said Jacqueline Junca, the tribe's secretary and treasurer.
Police didn't immediately release the names of the officers or the fourth victim.
Tribe councilman Toby Darden said the slain officer was married and had two grown children, but he declined to give his name.
"He's a real great guy. Extremely dedicated to his job. Very brave," Darden said.
He was one of seven full-time officers who patrol a 260-acre reservation that has roughly 150 homes, a grocery store, a small school and government offices.
"Everybody knows the officers personally," Darden said. "It's devastating."
Junca said the tribe has around 1,200 members, roughly half of whom live on the reservation.
Access to and from the casino was restricted for roughly 90 minutes as a precautionary measure while police responded to the shooting, said casino spokeswoman Nancy Herrington. Charenton is located about 45 miles southeast of Lafayette.
"We are very much in business and have been," Herrington said later Saturday. "We have events tonight. All of those are taking place."
A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office and a tribal police dispatcher referred questions about the shootings to the State Police.
"We've got a lot of unanswered questions," State Police Capt. Doug Cain said.
One of the injured deputies was taken to a hospital in New Orleans and the other was taken to a Lafayette hospital. Both were listed in critical but stable condition, Hammons said.