Local lawyers donate extra line of protection for deputies

July 19, 2016
Ambush prompts local caution
July 20, 2016
July 19, 2016
Ambush prompts local caution
July 20, 2016

During a routine trip to the Terrebonne Parish courthouse that Houma attorney Michael St. Martin noticed that the bailiffs did not have protective body armor.

The veteran lawyer made a decision – immediately – that this had to be fixed, which is why the deputies who provide security for judges, jurors, lawyers and the general public are now protected, with vests that can be comfortably worn and which, with their Type III status, provide a level of protection above those employed in routine patrols.

Sheriff Jerry Larpenter accepted a donation of nine vests from the law firm of St. Martin & Bourque Tuesday, and said the gift will go a long way toward protecting officers and therefore everyone else in the courthouse, in a way that his financially strapped department would have had difficulty with otherwise.

(Watch video of that donation ceremony by clicking here). 

Sheriff Jerry Larpenter said he is grateful for the donation. The Second Chance brand ballistic vests, which can be worn under the officer’s uniform, cost in the vicinity of $600 each, according to deputies familiar with the equipment.

“Michael St. Martin has been graciously giving of his finances and his time to this community like no one else,” Larpenter said. “He has been doing this for many, many years.”

St. Martin was informally discussing with a deputy the shooting that occurred in a Berrien County, Michigan courthouse July 11, which claimed the lives of two bailiffs there. He gave the deputy a friendly pat on the shoulder, expecting to feel ballistic protection but there was none.

After asking some questions of the chief bailiff, Lt. Ty Wesley and later with Larpenter, St. Martin learned that ballistic protection was not in the budget for the Sheriff’s Office.

The gift comes at a time of heightened threats to law enforcement throughout the nation during what has been a bloody month. Attacks in Baton Rouge and Dallas have claimed eight law enforcement lives. Those ambushes came in addition to tragedies like the Michigan case, which was the result of prisoner wrestling a gun from a deputy during transport in the courthouse.

At a Tuesday news conference St. Martin praised the Sheriff’s Office for work done both in the courthouse and out in the field, noting that they have “a rapid response, are educated, well trained … and we want to do everything we can to help them.”

St. Martin’s partner, Chuck Bourque, said the decision to make the donation was an easy one.

“This community has given much to the firm, and the firm is always looking for ways to give back to the community,” Bourque said. “The work we do for our clients requires us to be at the Terrebonne Parish Courthouse on a regular basis. The law enforcement officers at the courthouse are our friends and colleagues, and we are happy to be able to do something to make them safer while they maintain law and order at the courthouse.”

St. Martin and the other partners have garnered a reputation for local philanthropy, including donations to the Children’s Christmas Gift Program, money for high school students traveling to Washington D.C. for school-related activities, sponsorship of local sports associations and the Louisiana State Troopers Grant-a-Wish Program.

From left: Lt. Ty Weley, attorney Michael St. Martin, Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter and attorney Chuck Bourque at announcement of the St. Martin & Bourque law firm’s gift of nine ballistic vests for use by courthouse bailiffs.