Watching the Sheriff work

Central Lafourche voters still can’t early vote
April 25, 2018
Boat blessing stays dry, despite rainy conditions
April 25, 2018
Central Lafourche voters still can’t early vote
April 25, 2018
Boat blessing stays dry, despite rainy conditions
April 25, 2018

When I arrived it was over, last Friday afternoon in Houma on Southland Circle.

Bystanders huddled, discussing the drama they had seen unfold.

The suspect deputies had hunted for a full day was already gone, headed for jail. They had moved in after an hour of attempts to talk.

But there was still work to be done.

Deputies scurried about, airing out the tear gas from the apartment with a fan, securing search warrants, collecting evidence, tending to the woman with the baby.

Like bees at a hive, they came and went, checking in all the time with a man in a plain blue dress shirt. He chewed on a cigar and surveyed the scene through his sunglasses, barking an order in one moment, asking a question the next.

He often didn’t look directly at those he addressed. His eyes took in every detail in every direction. I imagined wheels turning in his mind, as he took in the information he requested.

It was my first time in the presence of Jerry J. Larpenter, the sheriff of Terrebonne Parish, who has taken the oath of office seven times over a span of 24 years.

His presence was commanding. He stood upright, chest slightly puffed.

He is obviously a man who isn’t shy about expressing his opinion nor about throwing a salty word or two in for some flavor.

“Aggravated battery before, and he had a gun before committing assault before with a weapon? Looks like he should have been in prison a long time ago,” he said of the jail-bound Cody Dupre, who Larpenter’s deputies said had pointed a gun at them the night before. “Well, they believe in too much of that reform shit.”

He displayed an unrefined charisma of the type I am not used to seeing, a carry-over from a different age. This was a gem of a lawman who, I believed, would never be able to leave the work he loves.

Gruff and brusque as his demeanor seemed at first glance, I was impressed by the patienc he showed to me, how he explained things when I had questions.

The deputies had an arrest warrant for Dupre — more than one actualy. But they needed a search warrant for this apartment where they found him.

Larpenter mused about how — as regards obtaining warrants — the world around him has changed in a good way.

“It used to be that you’d have to send a detective to go find a judge on duty to sign a search warrant,” Larpenter said. “Now we do everything electronically. Been doing that for several years now. It’s a lot faster. Sometimes it would take 4, 5, or 6 hours to find a judge.”

He kept watching through the sunglasses as residents complimented his deputies, and occasionally complimented him.

Pride was obvious in his carriage and movement. Pride in his deputies. Pride because his people would go home, and because their target was headed for jail instead of the morgue.

Have there been times it didn’t go this well?” I asked.

Larpenter looked down. It was a sobering moment.

He watched as some deputies discussed how the gas had messed up things in the apartment.

Two of them said they warned the woman with the baby about that, concerned about diapers she said were still there.

Larpenter shook his head. The child, he said, could get a bad rash.

A captain mentioned that the child’s diaper looked like it was sagging.

“Boy you ain’t lying,” Larpenter said

A firefighter needed to consult with the sheriff about the ventilation process.

When he was done with that conversation, Larpenter’s attention turned back to the woman and her daughter.

The mother wander to her truck, and was rummaging near the passenger seat when Larpenter addressed her from a distance.

“You have any diapers?” he yelled.

The woman said she did, and raised one she had just dug out in the air, as if it was a battle flag.

“Good,” he said, while turning away, placing the long cigar back in his mouth.

He spoke with me again, answering questions my questions about the take-down.

There were concerns, he said, about officer safety. He

“He’s disoriented with gas in his face, and the team walked in and got him out,” Larpenter said, mentioning that a flash-bang had helped with distraction.

A little boy named Landen Moor, who overheard, asked of no one in particular what a flash-bang was. His grandma, Tammy Riffe, told him to ask the sheriff, which he did.

“Well let me tell ya,” Larpenter began, animation increasing as he spoke, the cigar absent. “It’s like a piece of dynamite. It makes a loud noise and it hurts your ears, and it disorients you. It goes boom! And then what happens is, when the SWAT team’s about to go in, they throw the flash-bang in before. It goes off and it really shocks the body, and they go in and they get ya.”

“Oh!” Landen said. “I’ve seen that on Call of Duty!”

With that conversation done, Sheriff Jerry J. Larpenter walked away, the cigar back in place. He was back with his officers. There was more work to be done.