It was a little after 2 p.m. Tuesday when an FBI agent investigating drug-related activity at a New Orleans East motel fired a bullet at Allen Desdunes, fatally wounding him.
That is the only shred of information the agency has released about the incident, a fact that has left the grieving Desdunes family more upset.
On Wednesday his relatives said their knowledge of what led to the shooting was pieced together only through conversations with witnesses who were staying at the Motel 6 on the Interstate 10 Service Road, near Bullard Avenue, where Desdunes, 37, was killed.
“They’re not telling us anything,” said Erniquia Desdunes, Allen Desdunes’ sister-in-law, about the FBI. “We still have nothing official from them.”
Two witnesses told Erniquia Desdunes that two cars blocked in Allen Desdunes as he sat in his Nissan in the hotel’s back parking lot. Two men got out of their cars, did not identify themselves as law enforcement, broke his driver’s side window and yanked him out of the car, said Rosalind Desdunes, Allen Desdunes’ sister, who spoke to the same people.
The family believes Allen Desdunes was not armed.
His sister-in-law said that the witnesses told her he did nothing to threaten the agents. That, she said, leads her to question why he was shot.
So far, though, the FBI has provided little information about the case. Mary Beth Romig, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s New Orleans office, on Wednesday declined to make available anyone to discuss the case, citing an ongoing investigation.
State Police and New Orleans police are assisting with aspects of the investigation but have referred all questions about the incident to the FBI.
Desdunes’ family acknowledges he had a criminal past.
He has five arrests and several convictions related to drug charges in New Orleans since 1992, although no recent record of violent crime.
He also has no recent criminal history in Orleans Parish, although federal court records show a 2001 conviction.
Federal Bureau of Prison records show Desdunes was released in 2008 after serving time for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Orleans Parish court records show he was sentenced to seven years in prison in June 1993 after he pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine, according to court records.
He was arrested in July 1993 on a charge of possession of a firearm or weapon by a felon. He pleaded guilty in 1994 to an amended charge of attempted possession of a firearm or weapon by a felon and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
In September 1997 Desdunes was arrested on charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and distribution of marijuana.
According to court records, he pleaded guilty in February 1999 to the charges and was sentenced to five years on each count, to run concurrently.
His sister said Allen Desdunes had changed his ways.
“From his past to where he was today, he really grew,” Rosalind Desdunes said. “He became a man. He was responsible.”
Erniquia Desdunes said Allen Desdunes worked with her husband as a trash hauler and mainly was a homebody, spending time with his wife and sons, ages 20, 19 and 11.
But they weren’t sure what he might have been doing at the Motel 6. They said he was in a car following his wife when the two stopped at the hotel. Erniquia Desdunes said it was for an “errand,” but could not say what that errand might have been.
Allie Weibring, a spokeswoman for Motel 6, said Allen Desdunes was not a registered guest at the hotel.
Erniquia Desdunes said her brother-in-law was preparing to follow his wife out of the hotel’s parking lot when the FBI agents “ambushed” him. She heard this not only from the two witnesses, but also Allen Desdunes’ wife.
Within two minutes, she said, Allen Desdunes was dead.
Erniquia and Rosalind Desdunes said that while they do not believe their relative did anything wrong, they are keeping an open mind. But, they said, they want details and proof that he was a threat to the agent who fired the fatal shot.
“I don’t want a statement. I want evidence,” Erniquia Desdunes said. “Evidence is unbiased.”
On Tuesday, the FBI said in a news release that the agent will remain on duty while an internal investigation into the shooting takes place. The agent has not been publicly identified.
Allen Desdunes’ family said they are skeptical that the agent who killed him will face any penalties.
The FBI, in fact, rarely finds its agents at fault in fatal shootings.
According to a recent investigation by The New York Times, agents fatally shot about 70 people and wounded about 80 others between 1993 and early 2011.
Each of those shootings was deemed justified by the FBI, according to records the newspaper reviewed. An FBI spokesman told The Times that since 2011 there had been “no findings of improper intentional shootings.”
“The person who did this is still on the streets. That tells us nothing happened,” Erniquia Desdunes said. “At least give us some respect and make us think you’re doing something about it.”
Since the family has yet to get any answers, they plan to hold a sit-in on Thursday at the FBI’s New Orleans field office. They said they will not leave until they at least learn who is handling the investigation.
“I refuse to let this be another black man killed because he scratched his ass,” Erniquia Desdunes said. “We want to know what happened between 2:28 and 2:30 p.m.”
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