ST. JOHN PARISH, La. – A material witness in the fatal shooting of two St. John deputies last summer provided shocking detail as to what happened that day in testimony which was being recorded out of an “abundance of caution.”
Judge J. Sterling Snowdy said the route they had chosen in regard to the video testimony was precautionary, and that “we certainly hope Ms. (Teniecha) Bright will be here to testify for trial.”
Bright started by saying she came to know some of the suspects – Terry Smith, Brian Smith and Kyle Joekel – by hitching a ride to work with them.
She said that on the day of the shooting, an officer tried to stop the pickup truck she and others were riding in, though she said she doesn't know why the officer tried to halt them. Bright said Terry Smith, who was driving, exchanged words with the officer.
Then, another suspect, Kyle Joekel, told Smith to go and he peeled out towards River Road, she testified. The officer pursued the truck.
During the chase, Bright said Brian Smith pulled a gun from beneath the seat and “shot right into the window of the police car.” At this moment, Bright testified that she begged Terry Smith to pull over. But he didn’t, Bright said, saying he was told to go to the trailer park.
She tried to make a call, but was stopped by Joekel, who ordered her into the trailer.
"There was a lot going on," she said. "We heard sirens. They turned off the lights and then turned them on and then told everyone, 'Be quiet. Be quiet.’ ”
When officers knocked on the door, Smith and Joekel went to talk to them, she said.
Bright testified she then heard people screaming, “Help! Help!” before someone shouted, “Brian, kill them all.”
At that point, Bright testified that she was hiding in the bathroom and Brian Smith went to the door.
“You hear the door opening and then a lot of shots,” Bright said. “It was over in 30 seconds. Everything went really quiet.”
The next thing she knew, Bright said Smith came back into the trailer, bleeding from a badly injured leg. Bright said she subsequently started provided first aid to Smith, tying off his main artery because of the amount of blood he was losing and then called 9-1-1.
“I decided to take my chance to leave,” Bright said. “I saw a guy in a dark suit, like a cop, on the ground.”
As she left the trailer park, Bright said she saw a white SUV with a police log on it. The officers there helped her out, she said.
Bright told Stowdy that she left the suspects because she “wasn’t family. They could easily have disposed of me.”
Under cross examination, Brian Smith's defense attorney, Richard Bourke, questioned Bright's recollection of what she heard the suspects yelling.
Bourke asked, "Ccould it have been, 'They're going to kill us all?'"
Bright responded, "Nope. It was, 'Kill them all.'"
Bright also said that, after the shootings, she was in shock and that it took her several days to process what had happened.