NEW ORLEANS — An independent autopsy at the request of the family of Modesto Reyes gives his siblings some insight to the circumstances surrounding their brother’s death.
“Based on the autopsy, it gave us the answers that we felt in our heart from the beginning,” said Librada Turner, sister of Modesto Reyes.
The Reyes family gave us the preliminary report from the Louisiana Forensic Center. According to that report, Reyes was shot twice in the back.
“From the stories that the police statement said, it just didn’t add up from what we found out by the autopsy,” said Alfonso Rowland, brother of Modesto Reyes.
The cause of death is noted as two gunshots to the back. The report also shows a gunshot through the left arm and possibly one in the leg. Reyes, who does have a criminal history, was shot May 27 after Sheriff Joe Lopinto said he tripped and fell while running from a traffic stop in Marrero. Lopinto said Reyes was on the ground when he turned over and pointed a gun at the two deputies who were chasing him.
“It tells that because he was shot squarely in the back, it gives us the impression that Modesto could not have been turning around,” said family attorney Dedrick Moore.
“In this case, obviously someone lost their life. I didn’t want it to happen. My deputy didn’t want it to happen. I have no doubt about that,” said Lopinto.
While deputies don’t wear body cameras, there is a video from a Taser that automatically turns on when a deputy pulls it out of its holster.
A short clip was shown to media outlets, including WWL-TV, by the sheriff’s office. It shows a man's face down before turning over. Once he was facing up, it appears he had two guns, one in each hand. That’s when shots are fired.
“My deputies are put in tough situations. In this case, Modesto Rey es, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, had two guns, one of which was stolen. He put my deputy in a very bad position at that time,” said Lopinto.
The Reyes family hasn’t seen that video and Lopinto said because it’s an active investigation none of the evidence is being released. Lopinto expects independent autopsies to line up with the evidence but said he’s not able to share everything with the family.
“Modesto Reyes has a family. I don’t take that away from anybody. They’re family members are missing a loved one right now. I understand that,” Lopinto.
Only having an independent autopsy report, the Reyes family feels they’re being kept in the dark, only getting information by what’s being reported in the news.
“We just want justice. We just want them to come to us and prove to us why on their end they think everything was justified,” said Rowland.
A lawsuit has not been filed against the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office concerning this case, but attorneys do expect one. A demand letter has been issued for that video to be released as the family waits on the full autopsy report.