Déjà vu -- Deputies stop man in sugarcane field triggering recall of harrowing stop 3 years ago
PATTERSON, La. -- About three years after Jim Byron was stopped by two St. Mary Parish sheriff’s deputies and held at gunpoint by one of them in a sugar cane field in Calumet, Byron was stopped again in the same field by several other sheriff’s deputies after a 911 call came in reporting a possible homicide.
Byron, 65, of Calumet, said he was stopped within 30 yards of the same place where he had been stopped about three years earlier in the field off Zenor Road in Calumet.
Byron said he routinely walks from his house on La. 182 and through that sugar cane field near Zenor Road, almost to the heliport at Harry P. Williams Memorial Airport and back. He said he has permission from the landowner to do so.
Just after 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, the sheriff’s office received a report of a possible homicide, St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Traci Landry said. The sheriff’s office is still looking into the call, Landry said Wednesday morning.
The complaint the sheriff’s office was investigating when Byron was stopped was of a “very serious nature” when deputies responded to the area, Landry said.
Byron said he was stopped around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday when seven sheriff’s vehicles arrived in the cane field.
“When (the deputy) pulled up, and when he got out of the car, I went right to him. And I said, ‘look, this happened before and as soon as I’m out of here, I’m calling the sheriff’s office’,” Byron said.
Landry said the sheriff’s office still is looking into Wednesday’s report of a possible homicide. She stressed that, at this time, the report is “unfounded, but it is still under investigation,” as of Thursday morning.
After the deputies questioned Byron at the scene, they let him go, Byron said.
Byron said he was scared when he saw the deputies because he was thinking about a previous incident in which a deputy pulled a gun on him and threatened him.
Three years ago, in the same cane field about 30 yards away from where he was stopped Wednesday, Byron said a sheriff’s deputy drove up in an unmarked van behind him about 150 yards down the road that goes through the field. The deputy pulled out a gun, pointed it at Byron’s face and accused Byron of hiding by his house at a nearby trailer park, Byron said.
The man did not identify himself as a sheriff’s deputy and was not wearing a uniform, Byron said.
During that incident three years ago, a second deputy arrived in a marked sheriff’s vehicle, walked up to Byron and questioned him. The deputy got about three inches from him, Byron said.
Byron said the deputy was trying to get Byron to touch him.
Byron eventually convinced the deputies to call former Patterson Mayor Mike Accardo, who farmed the field, to confirm Byron had permission to walk through it. They called Accardo who confirmed Byron’s permission to walk through the field, and the deputies let Byron go, Byron said.
A female deputy also responded during that stop three years but she parked her vehicle at the end of the road and stayed by the car until the other two deputies called her over when they called Accardo. She then walked back to her car “like she didn’t want nothing to do with them people,” Byron said.
Speaking of Wednesday’s report of a possible homicide, Landry said, “We’re going to investigate anyone in any type of situation like that. In the future, it might not be Mr. Byron. It might be someone else. We just ask that they cooperate. The deputies should explain why they’re in the area, and why they’re asking the questions they are asking.”
Landry said the sheriff’s office has tracked the cell phone that made the 911 call and is following that lead.
She said the office received a 911 call that there may be someone injured, hurt and/or a homicide.
The sheriff’s office tracked where the call came from and responded to the area of Harry P. Williams Memorial Airport near Patterson, along the Bayou Teche.
The first deputy on the scene Wednesday asked him if he had permission to be there, and Byron told the deputy he does have permission to walk through the field, Byron said.
“Mr. Byron was in the area at the time (of the call), and, of course, our deputies are going to investigate anybody in an area where we receive a call of that nature,” Landry said.
Anna House, Byron’s daughter, who said she used to work for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and San Diego Police Department, contacted the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday and all she was told by a lieutenant with the office is that the sheriff’s office received a 911 call from a cell phone reporting a murder, House said.
When asked about the number of patrol vehicles the sheriff’s office has, Landry said the office does not release that information. Landry said the reason is that if it releases the information, the “bad guys” would know how many units the office has on the road.
Landry said the sheriff’s office received a complaint from Byron about the stop, and the office has addressed the issue, Landry said.
Bryon said he was going to speak with Sheriff Mark Hebert today about Wednesday’s incident.
Landry asked anyone who may have information on Wednesday’s report of a possible homicide to contact the sheriff’s office.