MANDEVILLE, La. — A veteran Mandeville police officer was fatally shot and another received minor injuries when a suspect opened fire on them after both the suspect's and officers' vehicles crashed at the end of a pursuit Friday, law enforcement officials said.
Vincent Liberto, 58, a 25-year veteran of the force, died at the scene of the shooting and another officer was taken to the hospital and then released Friday evening, officials said.
State Police say one suspect, identified as 21-year-old Mark Spicer of Covington, has been booked with one count each of First Degree Murder of a Police Officer, Attempted First Degree Murder of a Police Officer, Aggravated Flight from an Officer, and Possession of Stolen Property (firearm).
On Saturday, St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Charles Preston confirmed Liberto died from multiple gunshot wounds on the scene. He was struck with two projectiles, Preston said.
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A passenger in Spicer's vehicle suffered minor injuries in the crash, according to State Police.
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Law enforcement sources say the incident began when a uniformed officer attempted to pull over a vehicle driven by Spicer on Monroe Street for a traffic stop. When the car did not yield, police began a pursuit. A second officer in an unmarked vehicle joined the chase.
The vehicles ultimately headed north on US 190 before making a U-turn, then headed back south onto the off-ramp to Highway 22, where all three vehicles were involved in a crash.
After the wreck, sources tell WWL-TV that shots were fired at the marked police car, grazing one officer.
Then, according to sources, Spicer fired into the unmarked car, killing the officer inside.
As Spicer fled the scene, the wounded officer from the marked patrol car tried to chase him before other officers responding to the crash stopped him to render aid.
Meanwhile, the pursuit of the suspect continued when State Police said Spicer discarded a gun near Acadian Lane. Officers later recovered the firearm.
Sources said the suspect, later identified as Spicer, was found hiding out in the yard of a nearby school.
It was originally believed that there were two suspects in the incident, a State Police news release around 2 a.m. Saturday said only that a passenger in Spicer's vehicle suffered minor injuries. That person was not identified nor was it indicated that the person faced any charges.
The shooting took place near the overpass where Highway 22 meets with US 190, according to authorities and witnesses.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development temporarily closed the 190 Highway at LA-22 because of the incident. The highway was reopened around 5 p.m. Friday.
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"We have a wife that's grieving, we have children that are grieving, we have an agency that hasn't lost a police officer in probably 50 years that is grieving," said Mandeville Police Chief Gerald Sticker.
The extent of the injured officer's injuries was not confirmed by authorities. Sources say his face was grazed by gunfire. The officer was released from the hospital shortly after 5 p.m. Friday.
Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted out his condolences about the slain officer after being briefed about the incident by state police.
"Today we mourn the loss of a dedicated public servant who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving and protecting the people of Mandeville and the people of Louisiana," the governor said.
One witness said the scene unfolded across the street from the Cafe Du Monde location on North Causeway Boulevard, describing the incident as a "shootout." The witness said a large number of law enforcement officers converged on the location immediately after gunshots were fired.
The scene is still active and police are still working to determine exactly what happened, Mandeville Police Lt. Eddie Vanison told WWL-TV.
Louisiana State Police have taken over the investigation, law enforcement officials said. It is common for state police to head investigations into officer-involved shootings in Louisiana.
This is the first time a Mandeville police officer has been killed in the line of duty since 1958, when officers Jake Galloway and Gus Gill were ambushed and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call.
Stick with Eyewitness News for more on this developing story.
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