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LPD Review Board recommends further training for an office, but no disciplinary action

A Lafayette police officer acted within the law when he shot at a fleeing suspect’s vehicle last week. That’s the finding of the department’s Use of Deadly Force Review Board.

However, the panel is recommending further training for Officer Khoury Elias, who has been reassigned since the incident Friday, February 17. It's made up of Deputy Police Chief Dave Payne, Captain of Patrol Steve Hartman, Captain of Detectives Kurt Wolf, Shift Commander for Red Night Shift Lieutenant Neil Dale, peer officers Jason Savage and Aaron Lorton.

The Review Board took testimony most of Thursday, including from Elias and another officer at the traffic stop before the shooting. Both say they knew the suspect was dealing drugs and thought he was armed.

Elias fired one shot into the suspect’s vehicle when he sped off. No one was injured in the shooting. The suspect later crashed his vehicle and was captured after a brief foot chase.

Deputy Chief Payne says Elias will begin training Monday and it’s not known when he will be back on patrol.

Below is the Use of Deadly Force Review Board's letter to Police Chief Don Roush:

The Review Board reviewed video, photographs, transcripts and statements from the internal investigation and the criminal investigation. The Review Board also personally spoke with Officers Zach Hall and Khoury Elias.

The Review Board made several findings relevant to this incident:

Officer Elias spoke with drug officers last week who provided information that the suspect in this incident was dealing various drugs.

Officer Elias was involved with an individual prior to this incident that provided reliable and credible information that the suspect in this incident is dealing various drugs.

None of the information provided to Officer Elias included any mention of firearms or other weapons or that the suspect in this incident was known to be violent.

Officer Elias witnessed this suspect driving and initiated an investigatory traffic stop at Poland Hill Road and Twyckenham Blvd at 02:37 on February 17th, 2012.

Officer Zach Hall assisted Officer Elias on this traffic stop and positioned himself on the passenger side of the Lincoln Navigator the suspect was driving.

Officer Elias witnessed several furtive movements by the suspect as he approached the vehicle and as he spoke with the driver from his position at the driver’s door.

The suspect was verbally unresponsive during the entire 37 seconds of the encounter. The suspect was non-compliant and disregarded most of Officer Elias’ verbal commands to keep his hands where they could be seen.

Officer Elias observed a bag of marijuana in the lap of the suspect.

Due to the suspicious actions of the suspect, Officer Elias asked if the suspect was armed and the suspect did not respond.

Officer Elias was unaware that the suspect never placed his vehicle in “Park” and remained stopped only because he kept his foot on the brake.

Officers Elias and Hall never observed a firearm but both believed that this subject was armed because of his actions.

Officer Elias was engaging the suspect and was trying to remove the suspect from the vehicle in order to de-escalate this situation.

The suspect quickly dropped his left arm and hand and reached between his seat and driver door and turned and looked at Officer Elias for the first time as he quickly accelerated the vehicle and moved southbound on Poland Hill Road.

Officer Khoury Elias was in fear for his life and fired one round from his department issued Sig Sauer P229 .40cal weapon.

A short pursuit was initiated which resulted in the suspect crashing at Poland Hill Road and Ortman Lane and the suspect was apprehended after a short foot pursuit.

The round that Officer Elias fired was recovered from the driver’s side rear door pillar.

The Review Board [convened at 9:30 a.m. and] dismissed at 4:30 p.m. and finds that Officer Elias’ use of force was permissible under the law but his decisions and actions fall short of the expectations and standards of the Lafayette Police Department.

The Review Board recommends that Officer Elias receive additional training in the areas of critical decision making under stress, tactics and use of force in order to remedy this performance deficiency. Discipline would be of no benefit to the officer or the department.