06/16/2006

Man wanted for killing La. deputy surrenders

The Associated Press

RIVER RIDGE, Louisiana- A man wanted in the shooting death of a sheriff's deputy surrendered to police after a standoff Friday and released an elderly man he had taken hostage, authorities said.

John Lee Cheek, 31, walked out of the hostage's home after about 30 minutes of negotiations, said Col. John Fortunato of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's office. Cheek already was suspected in several Texas thefts.

"Once we were able to establish contact with him, he agreed to surrender," Fortunato said. "He came out peacefully with no problem."

Dozens of heavily armed police officers swarmed the New Orleans suburb Friday morning after Cmdr. Octavio Gonzalez of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff's Office was shot to death and Cheek crashed his car during a police chase.

In River Ridge, Cheek ran into a home where neighbors said Cliff Lala, a man in his late 70s or early 80s, lived alone. Lala was later released unharmed and Cheek surrendered.

Wayne Jones, sheriff of St. John the Baptist Parish, said two officers working a drug assignment in the parish had attempted to stop a car with Texas plates around 1 a.m. Friday. When the car came to a stop and officers tried to approach it, shots were fired and one officer was wounded in the leg before the car sped off, he said.

When deputies caught up with the car again, Gonzales was killed.

Jones said a woman who was with the suspect was apprehended but the gunman escaped.

St. John the Baptist Parish is west of the New Orleans metropolitan area with subdivisions that serve as New Orleans bedroom communities. From that parish, the suspect was believed to have headed east into Kenner, where he allegedly broke into a home and stole a car before crashing into a ditch in the River Ridge area.

Resident Ronald Lemoine, 54, said he returned from walking his dog and was preparing to go to bed around 3:15 a.m. on Friday when he heard a crash outside. When he looked out his door, he could see an officer, gun drawn, yelling at the suspect to get out of the car and lay on the ground.

"Next thing you know, there were police all over the place," he said.

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