Jefferson DA charges girlfriend of man killed by JPSO deputies last year in New Orleans

This article originally appeared in The New Orleans Advocate on January 31st, 2017. Click here to view the digital version.

By Matt Sledge

Authorities have never disclosed the results of an investigation into the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies who shot and killed a man in New Orleans’ Central City after a chase nearly a year ago.

But on Thursday, Jefferson Parish prosecutors brought a charge against the dead man’s girlfriend. Tyshara Blouin, 23, faces one count of accessory to aggravated assault with a firearm.

The charge stems from an incident at the Oakwood Center mall on the West Bank that preceded the fatal shooting of Blouin’s boyfriend, Eric Harris.

The Sheriff’s Office alleged that Harris pointed a gun and threatened an ex-girlfriend inside the mall on the night of Feb. 8. As a deputy responded, Harris took off for the parking lot, where he hopped into a car with Blouin inside, deputies said.

Blouin was behind the wheel as the 2004 Infiniti G35 left the mall, according to the Sheriff’s Office. But by the time the car crashed near Simon Bolivar Avenue and Philip Street in New Orleans, Harris was driving.

Harris crashed into a utility pole and then backed up slightly before the pursuing deputies fired several shots, striking and killing him. Blouin suffered only minor injuries.

About a week after the incident — and after Blouin had challenged the official version of events — the Jefferson Sheriff’s Office booked her on counts of being an accessory after the fact to aggravated assault with a firearm and of possession of a firearm while possessing a controlled dangerous substance.

Last week’s decision by the office of District Attorney Paul Connick Jr. means that the latter count has been dropped.

Gary Bizal, Blouin’s defense attorney, said the remaining charge does “not fit with her version of what she saw and what she knows, so I look forward to my day in court.”

Bizal also said Connick’s decision could present an obstacle if state or federal prosecutors want to pursue charges against the deputies who shot Harris.

“Most attorneys are going to hesitate to let her make any statements,” Bizal said.

“It creates a conflict between the two different potential prosecutors in the case,” he added, referring to prosecutors in the case against Blouin versus those who might wish to pursue a case against the officers.

The District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on its decision to charge Blouin.

Officials have never announced the outcome of the separate, joint investigation by the New Orleans Police Department and the FBI into the shooting of Harris. But Bizal said he doubts any charges will be filed.

Chris Bowman, a spokesman for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors there are “presently reviewing the matter.”

“We will have no further comment until the review is completed,” he added Tuesday.

The fact that the case is in the hands of the local DA’s Office may signal that federal prosecutors, who did not respond to a request for comment, have decided not to pursue civil rights charges against the deputies.

“With the current Justice Department (since the inauguration of President Donald Trump), we wouldn’t expect them to pursue this, given the tenor of their rhetoric,” Bizal said.

Bizal said he is preparing to file a civil lawsuit against Jefferson deputies Henry DeJean and Kenneth Bonura, who were both involved in the shooting. The suit will also name Sheriff Newell Normand as a defendant.

“It will be filed by Friday at the latest, and it was going to be filed regardless of their decision with Tyshara Blouin,” Bizal said. “It’s not retribution for the charges.”

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