Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore has reviewed most of the evidence concerning the shooting death of 18-year-old Kobe Johnson by an LSU football player during an armed robbery last Saturday.
And Moore agrees with Baton Rouge Police detectives. Whichever player shot Johnson to death — Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Jared Small — did it out of self defense.
"From what I know and what I have seen and heard, this is a totally justified shooting," Moore said in a phone interview with the USA Today Network Friday afternoon. "From what I've been able to gather, and I was at the scene and in the interviews with the two players, it was totally justifiable under the circumstances."
According to police, Edwards-Helaire, 19, and Small, 19, were in the front seat of a truck trying to sell an electronic item to Johnson seated seated in the back seat at about noon Saturday on the 2900 block of 68th avenue in the north Baton Rouge community of Scotlandville near Johnson's home. Police say Johnson pulled out a gun and demanded Edwards-Helaire's and Small's belongings. Either Edwards-Helaire or Small also had a gun, and one of them fired multiple shots into Johnson, who died at the scene.
"I'm not sure if Johnson fired his gun or not," Moore said. "We will find that out with the scientific evidence from the crime lab. I have not seen all of that yet. I'm not sure how many shots were fired other than it was more than one.
"Again, I don't think there's anything that will significantly change anything, but there's always that potential. I'm going to wait for all the scientific evidence, but I don't anticipate anything out of the ordinary. It was just a very unfortunate situation involving three very young people."
Moore said the gun that one of the LSU players fired was a legally owned handgun.
"It was a legally possessed weapon in the vehicle, which is an extension of the home," Moore said.
One of the LSU players called 911 and each waited for the authorities to arrive. They were then taken to state police offices and questioned at length separately.
"Their statements were consistent with each other despite the two being separated from the start for the interviews," Moore said. "Both of the kids were very upset, scared, traumatized and emotional. They were distraught. But they were polite, very cooperative, articulate and respectful."
Edwards-Helaire and Small were released Saturday night and not charged.
"They are free of any entanglements in this case," Moore said.
Both players flew with the rest of the LSU football team on Thursday night to Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl, where the No. 11 Tigers (9-3) will play No. 8 Central Florida (12-0) at noon on Tuesday on ESPN. Both are expected to play. Small is a reserve linebacker who has played on special teams this season. Both went to Catholic High.
"Clyde and Jared are two of the best young men on our football team," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said Thursday night when the team arrived in Phoenix. "We believe in Clyde and Jared, and we support them totally."
Both players have been receiving counseling through LSU, Orgeron said.
Moore said that he knew of only one prior criminal offense on Johnson's record - an assault charge.
"He was only 18 years old. There is nothing significant on his record," Moore said.
Moore planned to speak to Johnson's mother very soon.
"Out of respect, I want to review everything and meet with Johnson's mother, who has to be devastated," he said. "She deserves an explanation. She is grieving the loss of a son. This has traumatized a lot of families and will be with them forever. All involved have to be devastated, and this will last a lifetime for all of them."
Moore said private sales of property continues to be dangerous, depending on the situation and location. Baton Rouge Police said the area in which the shooting occurred is known for burglaries.
"It is up to each person to know who they are dealing with, but that seems problematic. Things go wrong," Moore said.
Visitation for Johnson will be Jan. 5, from 9 to 11 a.m. with a funeral service from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Winnfield Funeral Home in Baton Rouge.
The funeral home posted a message about Johnson: "We mourn the loss, but celebrate the life of Kobe Johnson."