MARRERO -- A 26-year-old Westwego police officer who stopped to help what he believed was an accident victim was shot and killed Friday morning at the intersection of Barataria and Ames boulevards. The woman he stopped to assist was shot and killed as well. Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich confirmed Friday afternoon that the woman was pregnant.
The incident set off a manhunt that included several jurisdictions, helicopters, dozens of law enforcement vehicles and heavy duty trucks that focused on the Crescent City Connection, with the suspect and person of interest, 32-year-old Sylvester Holt, apparently climbing out on the ledge of the span and talking to negotiators, before he eventually shot himself in the chest around 5:30 p.m. As of 8:30 p.m., Holt was said to be in critical condition.
Normand said that while on the bridge, Holt admitted to shooting Veal and the officer, though Normand said he wasn't sure of their conditions, though he had a pretty good idea.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said Officer Michael Louviere was shot in the back of the head. He had responded to what he believed was an accident scene as he was on his way home after working a shift for the Westwego Police Department. He was in uniform and in a marked unit.
The woman who was killed was identified by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office as 32-year-old Simone Veal, believed to be Holt’s wife. Normand said an initial phone call came to the Sheriff’s Office just before 6:30 a.m. with a woman saying she had been shot. A source tells Eyewitness News' Mike Perlstein that the shooter went to Veal's home, got into an argument and shot her once. Normand said the argument likely stemmed from Veal being pregnant by her new boyfriend. She fled the scene in a car and the shooter followed her.
Normand said Holt rammed his vehicle into Veal's several times while shooting at her. Veal was able to get out of her vehicle and was on the ground when Louviere, in his vehicle, passed by and went to render aid. Normand said that judging by the damage to her vehicle, he probably believed that she was injured in an auto accident. He said that at some point Holt came over and shot Louviere in the head as he was checking on Veal.
At that point, Holt apparently got into the U-Haul pickup truck he was driving and drove back to the Lillie Street home where he had shot Veal, apparently looking for her boyfriend. He later drove off and abandoned the vehicle nearby before catching a cab and ending up on the Crescent City Connection. Normand said Holt was able to get out of the cab on top of the CCC by telling the cabbie he was ill and was going to throw up.
Normand said a U-Haul pickup truck driven by Holt was found a few blocks from the shooting scene. Holt then used a cab to escape the scene and eventually make it to the Crescent City Connection.. The cab driver was being interviewed by investigators and it was unknown if Holt flagged down the cab as normal or if there was duress involved.
Holt had recently got out of jail in Jefferson Parish on Jan. 7 where he faced rape allegations. Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick said the charge was dropped because the alleged victim would not cooperate.
The massive manhunt for Holt appeared to end at the Crescent City Connection and the West Bank-bound lanes were closed as Holt, who was on a ledge outside of the main span, negotiated with law enforcement as dozens of police vehicles sat atop the span and dozens more were on the levees on the west bank.
Westwego Police Chief Dwayne Munch, said Louviere, 26, joined the Westwego PD in July 2015 after graduating at the top of his class. He was also a former Marine who served in Afghanistan. He leaves behind a wife, 4-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.
"It's hard. We're a close knit police department," Munch said of his office that includes only 38 officers. "He was shot in the back of the head. He had no idea what was coming. As he was trying to assist someone he believed to have been injured in an auto accident, he was murdered."
Samer Abed, a clerk at the Brother’s Food Mart at Barataria and Ames, said he heard two gunshots and a few moments later, a woman ran inside shouting for someone to call 911.
Abed wasn’t able to describe the accident, but said he saw a woman on the ground and a man, in a cop uniform, on the ground as well.
Normand described Louviere as "tops in his class. … From all accounts, just an incredible officer."
Westwego Mayor John Shaddinger agreed Louviere was a "well-liked" member of the police force.
"This is a very tough time for the city of Westwego," Shaddinger said.