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Police: Suspect in deputy's death holding hostage in New Orleans suburb

Associated Press Writer

RIVER RIDGE, Louisiana- Dozens of heavily armed police officers swarmed a suburban New Orleans neighborhood Friday where a man suspected of killing of a sheriff's deputy was holding an elderly resident hostage, authorities said.

"They're trying to negotiate with him at this time to see if they can work something out," state police Trooper Joey Piglia said.

The suspect was identified by police as John Lee Cheek, 31, who is wanted on theft warrants in Harris County, Texas.

Cheek had apparently crashed a car into a ditch during a police chase early Friday. He was believed to be holed up in a home where neighbors said an elderly man named Cliff Lala lived alone.

The hunt for Cheek started after two officers working a drug assignment in the parish attempted to stop a car with Texas plates around 1 a.m. Friday, Sheriff Wayne Jones said. He said the car came to a stop, but when officers tried to approach it, shots were fired, one officer was wounded in the leg, and the car sped off.

When deputies caught up with the car again, Cmdr. Octavius Gonzales of St. John the Baptist Parish sheriff's office was killed.

"He was my narcotics commander, 40 years old. Just an outstanding officer," Jones said.

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.


AP reporter Michelle Roberts in New Orleans contributed to this report.

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