Family wants third-party investigation in Leger shooting

photo by Kevin King

The Leger family has retained the legal services of the Bernsen Law Firm following the shooting death of 80-year-old Beaumont taxidermist Stanley Leger at the hands of a Beaumont Police officer at Leger’s home June 24.

Attorney David Bernsen announced at a Wednesday, July 2, press conference at the Bersen Law Firm that they have requested that the shooting be investigated by a third-party law-enforcement agency rather than the Beaumont Police Department and suggested the Texas Rangers and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office as possible candidates.

“I have talked to Police Chief Singletary,” David Bernsen said. “I told him that the family wishes to have a third party agency actually do the investigation of this unfortunate, tragic shooting.”

David Bersen said that the law firm has received statements from witnesses to the incident that contradict facts as reported by the Beaumont Police Department.

According to a June 25 press release from BPD, on June 24 at about 7:29 p.m., patrol officers responded to the 3100 block of E. Lucas at Galveston to a reported aggravated assault. A woman called 911 and advised that Leger had just shot at her. The woman told the officers Leger had fired the shot from his house in the 4800 block of Galveston as she was in front of a residence in the 3100 block of E. Lucas across the street. The woman was not physically injured, the BPD release states.

Officers attempted to make contact with Leger at which point, police say, he exited his house with a rifle. Officers ordered him to drop the rifle, but Leger refused to comply and instead raised the rifle toward an officer. The officer, who says he feared for his safety and the safety of citizens in the immediate vicinity, used his weapon to fire at the man. The shot struck Leger in the chest, and he immediately fell to the ground. The officers approached, secured his weapon, and began to administer first aid as they called for EMS. Beaumont EMS responded and transported the Leger to Christus St. Elizabeth ER. Hospital personnel listed him in critical condition before they took him into surgery. He died during surgery, a second BPD press release states.

Officers on scene did not suffer physical injury. Detectives, crime scene technicians, and officers from the BPD Traffic Division responded to investigate, process and document the scene. Officers also called for investigators from the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office to assist with the investigation.

David Bernsen said the whole story has not been told, however, and that Leger was renting the property across the street on East Lucas to tenants who not only were delinquent on their rent but were also destroying the rental property. He further stated that one of the tenants had made terroristic threats to the 80-year-old and his wife, Flora.

“The Legers had some renters in that house that were causing problems,” David Bernsen said. “The Legers were in the process of trying to evict those people.”

According to a Jefferson County Precinct 1 eviction citation provided by the Bersen Law Firm to The Examiner, the tenants renting the East Lucas residence from Leger were Thomas Williams and Shataria Brown and were sued by Leger on June 18, 2014, for “failing to pay contractually obligated rent” in the amount of $750.

A Justice Court Civil Case Information Sheet filed two days earlier further states under the Other Grounds For Eviction/Lease Violations that Williams threatened to shoot Leger on the rent property and changed the locks and destroyed ceilings and walls and threw the destroyed material outside.

“These tenants came over onto the property and threatened Mr. and Mrs. Leger’s lives,” Cade Bernsen said. “They said if you try to come back on the property, we will shoot you. Then they called and left threatening messages on the Legers’ phone saying we will blow your brains out.”

David Bersen said Leger contacted the Beaumont City Council, Beaumont Police, and the Jefferson County Constable’s Office asking for help to remove the tenants prior to his death.

“Mr. Leger did everything he could to report them,” said Cade Bernsen. “He reached out to everybody he could think of to try and protect his property. He was told there is not much he can do short of an eviction, so he filed the eviction papers.”

The eviction notice was hand delivered to Brown on June 10, and a court date was set for June 30, but was canceled after Leger’s death, David Bernsen said.

The damage was not casual, he said.

“It appears they’ve taken sledgehammers and torn holes throughout the wall,” David Bernsen said. “There is estimated $18,000-20,000 worth of damage to the Leger property by the folks that had reported that Mr. Leger had shot at them. This is the same man … that Mr. Leger reported came over to the house and threatened to kill (him).”

The details of the shooting of Leger released by BPD were also sketchy, Cade Bernsen said.

“This family categorically denies that Mr. Leger ever shot at anybody,” he said. “He did not shoot at (Brown). Mr. Leger out of frustration may have fired his .22 rifle up in the air. There are witnesses who have attested to that. What has been reported thus far is not accurate.”

Cade Bernsen also said that family members who witnessed the incident deny Leger aimed his rifle at police.

“It makes absolutely no sense why he would … aim a gun at police officers knowingly, from a common-sense perspective,” he said. “We have also interviewed witnesses that said that never happened. Mr. Leger was a law-abiding citizen — a father, grandfather, a stalwart member of this community.”

Flora Leger also gave a disturbing account of actions by BPD following the shooting to her attorneys.

“She said (Stanley Leger) crumpled down in the doorway and the next thing she knew, (the police) say, ‘Get back or we are going to shoot you,’” Cade Bernsen said. “She goes in the back room and the next thing she sees out the window is that (police) dragged him into basically the driveway between the two houses and stripped him down. It was a very disturbing sight for her to see. When it comes to ballistics, location of the body is key. If you move that body from the scene, you have compromised the crime scene.”

This report is inconsistent with a BPD press release that states Leger was taken to St. Elizabeth hospital where he died during surgery.

The family has also requested that BPD turn over security tapes confiscated from at least two of Leger’s security cameras.

“We believe the family has a right to see these videos,” Cade Bernsen said. “They may show very, very valuable pieces of information in putting together this story. If it turns out that Mr. Leger truly pointed a gun at an officer and threatened their life, then that officer had to do what they had to do. What this family wants is a fair, transparent investigation because there are some serious questions. It’s not fair for the BPD to investigate itself. They deserve an outside group to investigate this.”

A Beaumont PD report regarding the incident does not list Williams and Brown as victims, but does list BPD Officer Joshua Aaron Beard as the primary victim of Aggravated Assault on a Public Servant.

Beaumont Police Department Community Relations officer Carol Riley would not confirm that Beard was the officer who shot Leger and said that her supervisor told her that she was not allowed to comment on any questions regarding the incident as the case was under investigation by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.

Attorney Cade Bernsen said the Leger family also planned to file charges on Williams and Brown for felony criminal mischief for the destruction of the rental property. The Leger family was seen with attorneys at BPD while The Examiner obtained a police report on the incident following the press conference.

“We respectfully ask that the BPD and Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office prosecute those claims against those people,” Cade Bernsen said.

David Bernsen said the location of tenants Brown and Williams is unknown.