METAIRIE, La. — Authorities say an off-duty police officer mistook a cellphone light as a flash for a gun before shooting an unarmed 14-year-old outside the officer's Metairie home Friday.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto released new details Wednesday of the shooting on Grammar Avenue that happened on April 17.
Investigators say William Daniel Short admitted to shooting the 14-year-old shortly after 3 a.m. after hearing an alarm outside his home. Short told deputies he armed himself and confronted three teens, ordering them to stop. He said that two teens immediately ran away, but he saw an object in the 14-year-old's hand that lit up.
Short said he believed the light was a muzzle flash from a gun and fired a single shot, striking the 14-year-old in the head. When he approached the teen, he discovered that the object was actually a cell phone that was lighting up with a bright light.
Detectives confirmed that the 14-year-old had a feature activated on his phone that caused a bright light to display when receiving a phone call. They also determined that the teen had received a phone call at or around the time of the confrontation.
The sheriff's office said Short began immediately rendering first-aid and another neighbor called 911.
As of Wednesday, the teen remains hospitalized, the JPSO said.
Lopinto said detectives spoke with the other teens who were with the 14-year-old before the shooting. They told investigators that in total 5 teens had snuck out from their homes earlier in the night and were joyriding in a parent's car without permission.
The teens said they had stopped to return home, and in order to not get caught, decided to park the car a short distance away from their house near Short's home. Two teens left, but three stayed inside, before ultimately getting out themselves and triggering the car's alarm. The remaining three teens then started walking away when they were confronted by Short.
Lopinto said the shooting remains under investigation and there have been no arrests made in the case at this time.
“Upon competition of the investigation, JPSO will consult with the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s office for their review and determination as to potential criminal charges should any be warranted,” Lopinto said.
Anyone with information about the shooting or relevant video footage should call the JPSO investigation Bureau at 504-364-5300.