Ushers remove gun-toting man from Terrebonne Parish church

Ushers at a Houma church escorted a man with a gun out of the sanctuary during Sunday Mass, then provided information to authorities that led to his arrest.

Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter said 38-year-old Kevin Ledet fled St. Anthony of Padua Church on Bayou Black Drive after he was walked out, driving away in a white pickup. Detectives and uniformed deputies fanned out all over the northern Terrebonne Parish area, sighting him near his home on Lirette Street, where he was taken into custody without incident.

The incident occurred at a time when local Catholic Church officials are in the midst of what his been a lengthy process, determining what their policy should be about people carrying weapons into their houses of worship.

“The subject did not point the firearm at anyone and did not threaten anyone directly,” said Capt. Dawn Foret, Terrebonne’s assistant chief of detectives. “His actions, however, caused concern during the services, enough for multiple families to leave the church.”

Witnesses said Ledet was observed removing the gun from a bag he carried.

The Rev. Vincente N. De La Cruz, who was saying mass when the incident occurred, was not aware there was a problem, and there was no interruption to the service.

When officers encountered Ledet, they learned he had a gunshot wound in the leg, which he himself had inflicted Saturday night. After his arrest, Foret said, he was taken to Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center for treatment of the wound.

Ledet has outstanding warrants for DWI and violation of open container laws. He will be booked at the Terrebonne Parish jail, Foret said, after he is cleared for release from Chabert, and has a bond set Monday. At this point, Foret said, Leet will be charged with terrorizing, and two counts of illegal carrying of a weapon. One of those charges stems from his previous domestic violence offense conviction, which bars him from possessing a gun. The other is because of his entering the church with a concealed gun without having a permit.

Deputies also plan to charge him with one count of illegal discharge of a firearm because of the incident that resulted in his self-inflicted wound.

Louis Aguirre, a spokesman for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, said he was told that Ledet has been seen at the church before, to a point where his presence would not have been unusual.

It is Aguirre’s belief that the camo-clad Ledet had not come to cause problems for others, but may have been troubled and was there for pastoral purposes.

“There was no display of aggression, he was not there to create any havoc,” said Aguirre, who nonetheless commended the ushers for their role in minimizing any potential of a threat.

“I am proud of the fact that our ushers, they got him off the premises and let the civil authorities handle it, they know how to deal with that,” Aguirre said. “Somebody jotted down his license plate and vehicle model and gave it to the police.”

Louisiana law provides that a person with a concealed carry permit shall not bring their weapon into a house of worship. But the law also says that houses of worship may authorize an individual to do so for security purposes, and may employ armed security guards or law enforcement officers who are armed. Among the conditions of allowing an armed person in the church, the law states, is that churchgoers must be informed of such.

The Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux has no policy regarding weapons, but Aguirre said a panel that includes the Rev. De La Cruz is examining what its policy should be. A meeting with local law enforcement officials in regard to the policy, which has been in the works for several months, is expected in January.

“People go to church to pray to God, make offerings, be of service that may be needed,” said Sheriff Jerry Larpenter, who praised the quick work of his deputies. “Now you’ve got to have guards at church.”

Kevin Ledet