News & Events

5th JUDICIAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY PRESS RELEASE

Posted on April 19, 2016 at 1:31 PM

Fifth Judicial District Attorney John M. “Mack” Lancaster announced that no charges would be filed by his office in the law officer involved shooting death of Schuylar Gunning which occurred on December 24, 2015, just south of Winnsboro on U.S. Hwy 425 in Franklin Parish, Louisiana. Lancaster stated that Louisiana State Police conducted a thorough investigation of this incident. The investigation began the morning of the shooting and included interviewing more than 20 persons, (both law enforcement and civilian witnesses), studying the crime scene, collecting evidence, documenting the scene, taking photographs and measurements, reviewing radio, telephone and desk log records, obtaining cell phone GPS coordinates, reviewing autopsy and toxicology reports, obtaining and reviewing firearm and ballistic reports, and other investigative procedures. The investigation concluded on March 2, 2016. The State Police report was later submitted to the Fifth District Attorney’s Office for review and a decision on charges.

Lancaster reported that the investigative findings revealed that Schuylar Gunning left his parent’s home in Baton Rouge unannounced in their white jeep between 7:03 AM and 7:44 AM on Christmas Eve. Gunning drove northbound through the city limits of Winnsboro at a very high rate of speed. For unknown reasons, Gunning turned around and proceeded southbound back through Winnsboro city limits in an extremely reckless manner, speeding more than 80 miles per hour, and often crossing into the opposing lanes of traffic. Several motorists stated they had to take evasive actions to avoid colliding with Gunning’s vehicle. Law enforcement officers observed the erratic driving and began pursuit with lights and sirens. Gunning failed to yield for the pursuing officers, running several red lights, going around a road block, crossing the median into opposing traffic and proceeding recklessly through the crowded Christmas Eve traffic and an area where a large funeral was about to begin. He also rammed an occupied police vehicle and almost struck another officer on foot that had to jump out of the the way of Gunning’s vehicle to avoid being run over. Law enforcement officers forced his the vehicle off the highway on three occasions, gave verbal commands for Gunning to exit the vehicle, and attempted to shoot out the tires on the vehicle to disable the car. Despite these efforts, Gunning continued to operate the vehicle recklessly endangering the lives of the public, as well as the officers involved in his pursuit. Immediately after Gunning almost struck the officer and as he attempted to cross the median again, officers fired shots into the vehicle killing Gunning.

Lancaster stated that he and his assistant district attorney were notified that morning immediately after the shooting incident. Further, that it is standard procedure for the investigation reports to be forwarded to his office for review. He said after reviewing the report, interviewing witnesses, and examining the scene with investigative officers, he determined there was no reason to call for a grand jury as it was reasonable for the officers involved in the shooting to believe that Gunning’s actions would have caused grave injury and/or death unless the officers had taken the actions which they did that day.

Lancaster concluded: “My assistant D.A., Will Barham, my investigator, Owen Rockett, and I met with the parents of Schuylar Gunning prior to this public announcement to inform them of my decision that no criminal charges will be filed. That family has my deepest sympathies in the loss of their son and brother. This was an unfortunate incident that cost a young man his life. Law enforcement officers are often forced to make split second decisions in tense, uncertain and rapidly progressing circumstances. The officers’ conduct must be judged from their prospective of what was occurring in those split seconds at the scene and not with hindsight. I do not see any probable cause to seek criminal charges against any of the officers involved and am thankful none of the officers nor any other members of the public were killed or injured.”

Office Locations

  • District Attorney John M. Lancaster
    PO Box 805 • Oak Grove, LA 71263
    318.428.3219 • da@fifthda.org
  • Franklin Parish District Attorney's Office
    6568 Main St, 2nd Flr • Winnsboro, LA 71295
    318.435.3386 • franklin@fifthda.org
    Located in Franklin Parish Courthouse,
    Second Floor
  • Richland Parish District Attorney's Office
    PO Box 417 • Rayville, LA 71269
    318.728.3166 • richland@fifthda.org
    Located in Richland Parish Courthouse,
    Second Floor
  • West Carroll Parish District Attorney's Office
    PO Box 1209 • Oak Grove, LA 71269
    318.428.3213 • westcarroll@fifthda.org
    Located in West Carroll Parish Courthouse,
    Second Floor

Related Links