Slain La. sergeant remembered as 'epitome of a public servant'
Sgt. Shawn Thomas Anderson, a father of two and a deputy for 18 years, died after he was shot at a hair salon while trying to question a rape suspect
By Bryn Stole, Emma Discher and David Mitchell
BATON ROUGE, La. — A veteran East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputy who served high-risk warrants and earned accolades in his career became the fourth law enforcement officer to die here in the line of duty over the last eight months after he was fatally shot Saturday night at a strip-mall hair salon while trying to question a rape suspect, officials said.
Sgt. Shawn Thomas Anderson, 43, a father of two and an East Baton Rouge Parish deputy for 18 years, died after being rushed to nearby Ochsner Medical Center.
Anderson and another deputy struggled with the rape suspect inside Classic Cuts, a storefront hair salon on O'Neal Lane, about 11 p.m., said Casey Rayborn Hicks, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman. Hicks said during the struggle "shots were fired," and the deputy was wounded.
The rape suspect, who hasn't been identified by law enforcement, was also shot during the struggle, Hicks said. He remained hospitalized Sunday evening.
No other details of the shooting were provided by State Police, who took over the investigation.
Anderson was a decorated officer who, a year ago Sunday, earned accolades and local media attention after he helped a woman deliver her baby on Tiger Bend Road.
“Our hearts are broken as we grieve for one of our brothers,” Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said in a statement. “We ask for your continued prayers and support during this difficult time as we mourn the loss and honor the memory of Sgt. Shawn Anderson.”
A State Police trooper guarded the scene Sunday morning as a few patrons of a nearby daiquiri shop in the same strip mall as the hair salon showed up to find out when authorities would let them get their vehicles, which were trapped behind the police tape put up the night before.
Even as a parking lot for the next-door AMC Theater began to fill up for Sunday matinees, a few people were starting to leave flowers and other remembrances for the deputy on a brick planter in front of the salon.
At Classic Cuts, a bullet hole was visible Sunday morning just under a decal saying "Cuts &" in one of the salon's large glass windows facing the mall and movie parking lots.
Lilnetta Roach, the owner of the hair salon, said she had few details about what happened or why. She was reached by telephone Sunday morning before details of the shooting or Anderson’s name were made public.
Roach said some employees would work as late 11 p.m. on a Saturday and appeared to acknowledge that an unnamed male employee was at the business Saturday night.
She declined to offer more details or give the employee's name until she could learn more.
“I don’t know why he was there. I don’t know why he was there. All employees have a key,” Roach said.
Roach, who said she was in Houston, Texas, on Sunday morning, planned to head back to Baton Rouge. Attempts to reach Roach on Sunday afternoon after more details of the shooting emerged were unsuccessful.
Barbara Weathers, 64, who lives near the strip mall, said she and her daughter have frequented Classic Cuts for their own hairstyling. Weathers said she knew Roach and had seen a man and another woman also working in the salon.
Weathers also said the salon would sometimes stay open in the nighttime hours as workers finished detailed hair appointments.
“That’s not unusual,” Weathers said about the late hours.
Anderson's killing comes as Baton Rouge law enforcement continues to grieve the assassination of three officers in July during an ambush that also left three others wounded.
Deputy Brad Garafola and Baton Rouge police officers Matthew Gerald and Montrell Jackson were killed July 17 in an ambush by a former Marine from Kansas City, Missouri.
The father of Deputy Nick Tullier, who was critically wounded in the July 17 attack and remains in an intensive rehabilitation facility in Texas, offered his condolences to Anderson's family and said the shooting was another tragic blow to the tight-knit local law enforcement community.
James Tullier, the deputy's father, said there isn't enough support for police and deputies in the parish and laid some blame for that at the feet of unnamed local elected officials.
"The change has to start in the community and with some of these officials who want to be soft on crime," James Tullier said.
“It’s been a rough year for our department, our community,” said Hicks, who said she knew Anderson very well. “It’s been a rough year for law enforcement across the nation."
Anderson joined the Sheriff’s Office in May 1999 and served in a number of divisions, including the K-9 unit, narcotics, and the SWAT team. While on SWAT, he was recognized in 2014 for serving more than 60 high-risk warrants the previous year with no injuries or shots fired.
He also served in uniform patrol across East Baton Rouge Parish, including most recently with the Kleinpeter substation.
A year ago, a pregnant woman and her husband were headed to Ochsner Medical Center when they realized they weren't going to make it in time to deliver the baby and pulled over to where they saw some sheriff's deputies. Anderson quickly jumped into action, he recalled in an interview a couple days later. The baby, safey delivered, turned 1 on Sunday.
Hicks, the Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said Anderson recently helped her mom find her lost cat after the deputy responded to an alarm going off at her house.
“He was just the epitome of what a public servant is because whatever the job at hand was he was going to get it done, whether it’s finding a lost cat, delivering a baby or saving a woman on a bridge,” Hicks said.
Anderson helped save a woman who threatened to jump off of the Old Mississippi Bridge in June of 2010 and received the Lifesaving Award for it.
Hicks said Anderson was a great father to his son and daughter and he had recently talked to Hicks about how proud he was of his daughter after her successful track and field meet.
When Hicks asked Anderson to talk with media after he helped deliver the baby, she said, he was shy and not one for the limelight so she went with him to visit the family.
“You just see a father’s love right there in that picture,” Hicks said, referring to a photo of Anderson holding the baby he helped deliver. “I think that just exemplified the kind of person he was. He was funny and to the point … and he had a soft heart.”
Anderson’s next-door neighbor, Delores Swain-Stafford, said the Andersons have been the best neighbors.
“God could not have given my husband and I better neighbors than the Andersons,” Swain-Stafford said. “When my husband passed away unexpectedly, they were there to do whatever they could to help me. I told them prayers was all I needed from them.”
She said Anderson helped mow her lawn a couple of times despite his busy work schedule. As a substitute teacher, Swain-Stafford has taught classes for both of Anderson’s children, whom she described as “great students.”
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome ordered flags in the parish lowered to half-staff this week in honor of Anderson and expressed her "deepest gratitude" for the service he and his fellow deputies have provided.
"When someone who wears a uniform and vows to protect and serve is lost, we all mourn and recognize that this is a loss for our entire community and a very sad day in Baton Rouge," Broome said in a statement.
In the O'Neal Lane strip mall where Anderson was fatally wounded, residents stopped by Sunday to pay their respects to the officer cut down in the line of duty. A memorial with flowers grew next to yellow crime-scene tape near Classic Cuts, which is adjacent to a hodgepodge of businesses, including a massage parlor, daiquiri shop, a barber shop marketed to Hispanic customers, a dentist's office and an urgent care clinic.
Kim Heard, 48, of Baton Rouge, said she was motivated to leave begonias for the deputy out of sorrow for his death in the line of duty and over the continuing violence in her hometown.
“It just makes me sad,” said Heard, who came with her high school-age son, Beau, to leave the flowers. “I grew up here. He’s grown up here. I just wish it was a little bit more peaceful place.”
___ (c)2017 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.