ST. BERNARD PARISH -- One of three deputies on trial for a jailhouse death of a 19-year-old female inmate in 2014 was rushed to the hospital for a self-inflicted gunshot wound late Thursday night.
St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office Capt. Andre Dominick was taken to University Medical Center Thursday after suffering the gunshot wound.
Dominick, 58, apparently shot himself in the torso after sitting through the fourth day of his federal civil rights trial. Sources say he underwent surgery for life-threatening injuries and remains in a medically-induced coma.
Dominick is on trial with two other deputies – Debra Becnel and Lisa Vacarrella – accused of violating the civil rights of 19-year-old Nimali Henry by showing “deliberate indifference” to her grave medical condition. Henry, suffering from a rare blood disorder, died of blood clots while lying face down in an isolation cell at the parish jail in April 2014.
The deputies are charged with allowing the gravely ill Henry, a new mother, deteriorate despite her pleas for help and her family's attempts to get her medical attention.
Henry had been arrested on questionable and relatively minor charges in March 2014, but died of her serious but treatable illness after 10 days in jail.
A fourth deputy, Timothy Williams, pleaded guilty as charged to violating Henry’s civil rights and could testify against his former colleagues. Williams could face up to life in prison, the same sentence the other three deputies could face if convicted.
In a factual basis – a court document filed along with Williams' formal admission of guilt – the former jailer admitted that he “mocked and ridiculed” as he watched Henry on a video monitor as she suffered.
Henry was jailed after getting into an altercation as she tried to retrieve her four-month-old daughter from the child's father. Despite facing relatively minor charges of simple battery, disturbing the peace and unauthorized entry, her bail was set at $25,000.
A WWL-TV investigation examined dozens of cases with similar charges and found Henry’s bail amount – set by Judge Jeanne Juneau – was far higher than even cases with more serious charges, and far more than her family could afford.
The trial of Dominick and the other two deputies included emotional testimony from inmates who witnessed Henry’s failing health, as well as graphic jailhouse video showing deputies moving Henry from one cell to another even though she could barely walk.
One dramatic video showed Henry lying face down and motionless in the isolation cell where she ultimately died.
After jury selection and three days of testimony this week, the trial was expected to resume for a full day Friday. But after a quick session to release the jury, attorneys met with U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle, who promptly announced a suspension to the trial.
The attorneys are expected to return to court Tuesday to determine how to proceed.
In openings statements Monday, Dominick’s attorney Paul Fleming told the jury about his client’s 39-year career in law enforcement. He also spoke about Dominick’s own recent tragedy since he was indicted in 2015: the sudden and unexpected death of his wife due to a blood clot.
“Captain Dominick is not the uncaring monster that the prosecutors would paint him to be,” Fleming told the jury.