Suspects charged with terrorism
LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office employed a rarely used state statute to arrest four people Friday morning on counts of terrorism in connection with the May 18 shooting death of a 43-year-old Lafayette Parish man.
The shooting occurred in the 200 block of Marigny Circle sometime before 9:30 p.m. Deputies found Ray Ryan dead at the scene, the Sheriff’s Office said at the time.
On Friday, the Sheriff’s Office held a news conference to announce the arrests of Eric “Vicious” Johnson, 44; Phillip Deen, 34; Devin Johnson, 24; and Rebecca Seraile, 20.
Each of the four was booked on one count of terrorism, a state statute enacted in 2002 and defined as the commission of certain acts when the offender has the intent to coerce the civilian population, or influence the policy or conduct of a unit of government by intimidation or coercion, said Capt. Kip Judice, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
This is the first time the Sheriff’s Office has used the statute, Judice said.
In this case, the terrorism charge arises out of an intentional act of aggravated criminal damage to property that involved shooting a gun into a residence, Judice said.
“It was during the course of such activities that Ray Ryan was shot and killed,” Judice said, adding later, “We believe that more than likely, he was struck by a bullet that wasn’t intended for him at all.”
Judice said investigators believe the shooting was intended to draw someone else out of the four-plex apartment building.
While investigators are still trying to determine who fired the fatal shot, Judice said investigators believe one or more of the four arrested could have been responsible for the shooting, and all four are believed to have been involved in the events leading up to the shooting, which included a fight that occurred the night before the shooting.
“We knew almost immediately that we were looking at a series of incidents that led to the death of Mr. Ray Ryan,” Judice said.
Three of the four arrested are residents of Marigny Circle and all four have long ties to the area, Judice said.
The shooting occurred in an area of interest for the Sheriff’s Office, which in recent years has directed additional resources toward Marigny Circle in an effort to reduce and eliminate criminal activity there, Judice said.
Those efforts include a dedicated police presence inside one of the apartments, and a partnership with the community that involves after-school tutoring and community garden activities, Judice said.
A community services deputy also works within the area eight hours a day and five days a week, said Deputy William Lavergne, who defined his role as being to “work with the community for the community.”
The murder investigation continues and additional arrests are expected, Judice said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at (337) 232-9211.