Suit: Department played role in boyfriend’s death
LAFAYETTE — A defendant in an upcoming manslaughter trial has sued the Youngsville Police Department, its chief and others, claiming officers did little to protect her from the violent boyfriend she’s accused of killing in summer 2012.
Tammy Romero, 42, alleges in a suit filed in U.S. District Court that Youngsville police are responsible for Victor Wirtz’s death on July 23, 2012, because they failed to prevent him from abusing her.
Romero states Youngsville police pursued a murder charge against her to shield themselves from responsibility in the death of Wirtz, who was 45 when police found him dead from a single gunshot wound in a bathroom at Romero’s Fourth Street home in Youngsville.
Youngsville police initially booked Romero into jail on one count of second-degree murder, which carries an automatic life sentence with no parole.
A grand jury Oct. 31, 2012, decided a more appropriate charge against Romero would be manslaughter, which carries a prison sentence of up to 40 years.
The lawsuit claims police blamed Romero for Wirtz’s death “in an effort to divert attention from their failure to prevent the violence that occurred, their failure to protect (Romero) from domestic abuse and their responsibility for the death of Mr. Wirtz.”
Romero’s manslaughter trial in state district court, meanwhile, is scheduled to start on Feb. 10 in Lafayette.
Police found Wirtz dead on a bathroom floor with a bullet wound in his chest. The handgun used to kill him was found on a night stand, according to the affidavit.
Romero told police Wirtz had violated a restraining order by showing up at the home that night and that she was trying to call police when Wirtz grabbed her cellphone. The two wrestled over the phone when “she obtained the ... loaded pistol from inside the night stand ...,” states the affidavit, written by Youngsville Detective Scott Bernard.
Wirtz then grabbed her right hand, which held the handgun, and she pulled the trigger.
“(Romero said) she did not mean to shoot the victim but admitted to willfully pulling the pistol’s trigger,” the affidavit states.
Romero is suing police Chief Earl Menard and four individual officers along with the city of Youngsville and its insurance carriers.
The suit outlines six violations Romero said Youngsville police committed, including a claim that women are treated poorly and defended poorly when they make complaints about domestic violence.
The suit also claims Youngsville violated the Louisiana Protection from Family Violence Act when they failed to prevent Wirtz from hurting Romero, failed to help her get medical treatment and when officers didn’t label Wirtz a “predominant aggressor” or arrest him.
“(Menard) condoned ‘business as usual’ way of handling domestic abuse cases rather than stressing the enforcement of laws to protect the victims of domestic abuse ...,” according to the suit. She is seeking damages for alleged physical and emotional pain and suffering, and for expenses tied to the ordeal including attorney fees.
Menard’s office said he was unavailable for comment Friday.
Youngsville Mayor Wilson Viator said he knew little about the case and couldn’t comment on it. Edwin Preis Jr., attorney for Romero in the lawsuit, did not return a message seeking comment.