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A former Eunice police officer is facing charges of obstruction and malfeasance in office, for allegedly cussing out someone he was arresting and threatening to beat him up. Major Eddie Thibodaux with the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office says Lt. Varden Guillory became irate with Heath Bergeron, a domestic violence suspect, when Bergeron came in to make his statement.

“While he was walking to the booking room, Lt. Guillory allegedly tore his statement up and said ‘You’re not going to use this blanking statement’ and he said ‘If I was not in uniform, I’d rip your head off,’” Thibodaux said.

Thibodaux says Guillory was upset that Bergeron got his friend to help him write the statement, because he wasn’t a very good speller. He says Guillory then arrested Bergeron for domestic abuse battery, without getting the proper information first.

“The Lieutenant allegedly did not speak to him, nor the witness, nor the kids. Just booked this man on felony battery charges,” Thibodaux said.

Guillory left the Eunice Police Department after the incident. Thibodaux says after completing the investigation into the battery, Bergeron’s ex-wife was later arrested for domestic abuse, as she was the alleged perpetrator. The two had apparently gotten into an argument over what time they would meetup to exchange their children on Father’s Day. He says Guillory has also been arrested.

“Lt. Guillory was in violation of obstruction of justice, meaning he tore the statement up and didn’t put in a report and malfeasance in office by not doing a complete investigation,” Thibodaux said.

 
 
 

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Tuesday’s Mega Millions jackpot has shot up to whopping $390-million. Louisiana Lottery Spokesperson Kimberly Chopin says this jackpot has been rolling since March and is the fourth highest Mega Millions jackpot ever. She says it’s been two years since we’ve seen Mega Millions reach this level.

“With a cash value of $265.4 million, this is a big one for Mega Millions.”

Chopin says unlike Powerball that costs two dollars to play, Mega Millions only costs a dollar so it takes a little while for the jackpots to build up. She says the biggest jackpot was reached in 2012.

“I believe we’ve reached over $600 million was the biggest Mega Millions jackpot ever.”

This is the largest prize offered in Mega Million since March 2014 when two tickets shared a 414 million dollar prize. Chopin says a lot of people don’t know that Mega Millions has a megaplier function, which can multiply your prize up to five times by adding an extra dollar. But she says there is more than one way to win.

“Mega Millions offers lots of different ways to win, including a prize just for matching the yellow megaball. So check your tickets immediately after the drawing.”

 
 

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The first Louisiana dolphin to be rescued and released into the wild is thriving. Audubon Nature Institute Stranding and Rescue Coordinator Gabriella Vazquez says the young dolphin was found by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in October of 2015, stranded on the beach in Grand Isle.

She says when they tried to release him back into the Gulf, he showed no initiative to swim, so they made the decision to rescue the calf.

“About six months later, we got to release this dolphin. This is the first time in the history of Louisiana that we have been able to rescue, rehab, and release a dolphin.”

Vazquez says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration required Audubon scientists to monitor the dolphin in the wild for six weeks after he was released into Barataria Bay. She says all their testing proves the young dolphin, named Octavius, is doing great in the wild.

“He was satellite tagged, we had to track him for six weeks, we had to go out on a boat and get eyes on him. Typically after six weeks, NOAA deems it a successful release and that’s where we are.”

Vazquez says it’s great to see how all of their hard work paid off. She says Octavius has been spotted swimming with other dolphins in areas where there is lots of food available.

“He’d poke his little head up and look at us and swim off. He’s exhibiting normal behaviors and it seems like everything is going in a positive direction.”

 
(photo courtesy of LDWF
 
 
 
 

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A fatal crash in Iberville Parish took the life of a 9-year-old and left several others with injuries. Trooper Bryan Lee with State Police says 27-year-old Tommie Killough was attempting to pass another vehicle in a no passing zone.

“Those vehicles collided, and Killough’s vehicle ran off the roadway and began to overturn, ejecting 9-year-old Asha Cooper, and she was deceased at the scene,” Lee said.

Lee says Killough hit 34-year-old Courtney Alvarez’s vehicle. He says Alvarez and her passengers were properly restrained and not injured. But he says Killough’s passengers were not restrained, including Asha Cooper, because there were more people in Killough’s 5 passenger SUV than there were seatbelts.

“There were 6 more juveniles, besides the deceased juvenile, and one other adult inside of that vehicle,” Lee said.

Lee says Killough’s other passengers were taken to a local hospital with moderate to severe injuries. He says Killough is still in the hospital, but once she gets out, she will face multiple charges.

“She’ll be facing charges of negligent homicide, passing in a no passing zone, driving under suspension, and she will receive multiple counts of failure to use child restraints and seatbelt violation,” Lee said.

 
 
 

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There have been reports stating the Saints will not hold mini-camp at the Greenbrier in West Virginia given the recent flooding the state has seen. Saints sideline reporter Kristian Garic says the NFL team has every intention of beginning camp on July 27th in at the resort but they’re still in a bit of a holding pattern.

“I could see them conceivably starting perhaps training camp down here and then going to West Virginia to hold a portion of training camp.”

Garic says the main thing is getting the Saints out of the extreme south Louisiana heat. He says there is a possibility the team might go to Foxborough before pre-season to practice with the Patriots.

“Until they get a better grasp of just how much damage there is to the infrastructure up there and how capable the Greenbrier Resort is in general of hosting the Saints then I think you’ll see a decision made about a week or two before training camp.”

Garic says the Saints played a huge part in boosting morale in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and believes they would do the same in West Virginia.

“I’m sure they feel a bit obligated to return the favor, they’ve always been a big community oriented team so I think that’ll be a part of the decision making process once they decide definitively what they’re doing.”

 
 

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People on both sides of the Texas abortion Supreme Court ruling are sounding off on the issue. The ruling overturned a law that restricted women’s access to abortion clinics. That’s according to Executive Director of the National Organization for Women in Louisiana, Angela Adkins. She hopes this paves the way for the similar law in Louisiana to be struck down.

“It gives us a lot of hope that the same type of bill that is currently enjoined by the Supreme Court for Louisiana will also be found unconstitutional,” Adkins said.

Attorney General Jeff Landry says his office will continue to fight for Louisiana’s pro-life laws. But Adkins says challenging the ruling to keep this law on the books will be an expansive fight and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“This is just ridiculous, beyond ridiculous, to keep wasting taxpayer money on something that is a constitutional right for women to have,” Adkins said.

President of the Louisiana Family Forum, Gene Mills, says he is disappointed with the ruling. He says this ruling put abortion clinic profits over the safety of women.

“This creates a blanket immunity for abortion providers to provide a lesser degree of care for the young women that they’re seeing, and I think that’s a travesty,” Mills said.

Mills says the reason behind overturning the Texas law was that the purpose of it was to shut down half the abortion clinics in the state. But he says that is not the case with the Louisiana law, so he hopes it will stay on the books.

“I’m hopeful that Louisiana will continue to be the most pro-life state in the nation. We sent five pro-life laws to the Supreme Court. They may keep knocking them down, but we’re going to keep sending them things to keep them busy,” Mills said.

 
 
 

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Many people are likely to be out on the water for the 4th of July holiday but should be cautious because the flesh-eating bacteria, vibrio, has been found along the Gulf of Mexico coast stretching from Texas to the Florida panhandle.

Biology Professor at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Dr. Gregory Buck says the bacteria typically lives in salt water and thrives when the water is warm, so it’s only going to continue to grow. He say vibrio can enter the body through eating raw shellfish or an open wound.

“Going to get pain in the region, it’s going to be discolored and then you can actually start getting fluid filled blisters, they can be bloody, you skin starts dying.”

There are about 10 to 15 cases of infection from the vibrio vulnificus bacteria in Louisiana, annually. Buck says anyone can contact the bacteria but some people are at a greater risk.

“Those persons who have liver disease, kidney disease, they’re diabetic, they’ve had cancer or they have very low levels of stomach acid.”

But Buck says this doesn’t mean people shouldn’t go to the beach, just be cautious when entering the water with open cuts or scratches and when eating raw oysters or clams. He says if you believe you have the vibrio bacteria, go straight to the doctor because it can be life threatening.

“But there are antibiotics that can be used to successfully treat vibrio, it will not go away on its own.”

 
 

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Just in time for the soaring summer temperatures, Cleco utility customers are getting a break on their power bills. Cleco spokesperson Robbyn Cooper says beginning July 1, customers will start seeing a credit on their bills, averaging $475.

“This credit will be on the July bill, and it will roll over each month until the credit is exhausted,” Cooper said.

The credit comes as a result of the Pineville-based utility company’s sale to a foreign investment group, when the Public Service Commission required the company to meet a long list of requirements to get the deal approved. Cooper says they want customers to benefit from the sale too.

“This is just one way that we’re showing our commitment to our customers and ensuring that they receive a direct benefit from our transaction,” Cooper said.

Opponents to the sale will have negative impacts on Celco’s nearly 300-thousand customers, like seeing their rates go up over time. But Cooper says customer shouldn’t notice a change in their service.

“Our headquarters will remain in Pineville, Louisiana, and our customers will continue to enjoy the same quality customer service and reliable power delivery that they’ve experienced in the past,” Cooper said.

 
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards has made changes to a program that gives manufactures significant tax exemptions. His executive order lets local governing bodies have a say in how the exemptions are handed out, and requires companies applying to show they are creating or retaining jobs.

Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson says,
 
“When industry is moving into a parish, utilizing the roads, the schools, the water and putting a demand in that parish, it seemed more appropriate for that parish to have a voice.”

Pierson says before the executive order there was no requirement for a company to make a commitment to jobs or investment. He says all the company had to do was prove to be a manufacturer to receive the industrial tax exemption.

“This closes that detail element and requires that the company say we’re going to create X number of net new jobs, we’re going to make this kind of investment, this is what we’re bringing to the table.”

Pierson says LED wants to make sure we’re attracting manufacturing companies that are good for the economy, local governments and communities. He says 38 other states give local oversight on the local exemption process.

“Now, perhaps Ascension Parish is in competition with St. James Parish. All the opportunity that’s there remains there, it’s simply we’ve added to the players at the table.”

 
 

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The Supreme Court struck down a Texas abortion law today, which could mean a similar Louisiana law is coming off the books as well. The law required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals, and Louisiana has similar legislation. Loyola law professor Dane Ciolino says the ramifications of this ruling could reach into our state.

“What the court will do is enter what it calls a GVR order, in which it will grant and vacate this circuit’s current ruling, and then remand, send the case back to the Fifth Circuit to consider it in light of today’s opinion,” Ciolino said.

The Louisiana law was blocked by a federal judge, but in February the Fifth Circuit granted a request by Attorney General Jeff Landry to overrule the lower court and allow the law to take effect. Landry issued a statement saying his office will review the implications of today’s Supreme Court’s ruling on Louisiana’s law, but will continue to fight Louisiana’s case to protect women’s health. Ciolino says the justices ruled the law violates the Constitution.

“What it says is that Texas’ restrictions on abortion impose an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose whether to carry her pregnancy to term,” Ciolino said.

Landry’s statement also says “our law is both factually and legally different from the Texas law.” But Ciolino says Louisiana’s law is at least as restrictive as the one in our neighboring state.

“The Fifth Circuit is not going to have very man options, given that Louisiana’s law is at least as restrictive, and properly reviewed even more restrictive, than the Texas law,” Ciolino said.

 
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards has been elected as the chair of the Southern Regional Education Board. Edwards says he’s looking forward to strengthening the learning and preparedness of students in all member states. Edwards’ Communication Director Richard Carbo says the governor is passionate about education and has been since he first started out in the legislature.

“This just gives him the opportunity to further implement and new initiatives to promote K-12 education and opportunities to give students the resources they need to succeed.”

Carbo says we’re seeing schools around the region from K-12 to higher education having to do more with a lot less support from the state. He says the governor’s goal is to reinvest in education.

“He’s fought for more funding for education and fought for teachers and students and it’s something he’s really excited about.”

Carbo says K-12 education is being cut in Louisiana for the first time in a generation. He says this new position will give Governor Edwards an audience and a platform to look for new ideas to improve education throughout the 16 state region.

“That’s the biggest advantage about SREB, is you have an opportunity to hear what other states are doing and maybe bringing them back to Louisiana and as the leader of that he’s actually really excited about it.”

 
 

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A fatal crash took the life of a one-year-old in St. Landry parish. Master Trooper Brooks David with Louisiana State Police says 24-year-old Bendel Williams was driving down Highway 182 Sunday when he ran off the road. David says one-year-old Jamaika Johnson was not properly restrained in the back seat.

“The one-year-old child was injured and transported to the hospital, and unfortunately due to the injuries sustained, that child died while at the hospital,” David said.

Investigators believe Williams is dating the child’s mother. David says they are not sure what caused the driver to veer off the road, but the investigation is ongoing while Williams recovers from his injuries.

“Mr. Williams was transported to the hospital also with moderate injuries. Toxicology results are pending for that crash,” David said.

David says charges are pending. He says children need to be properly restrained at all times when riding in a vehicle, and parents can come by troop stations throughout the state to make sure their car seats are installed correctly.

“Nine times out of ten when parents come here, we notice that that child seat is improperly installed, and we can show you how to install that car seat properly,” David said.

 
 
 

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Plans are in the works for Shreveport-Bossier to get a new bridge over the Red River, and Monroe residents are asking when will the state pay for a new bridge over the Ouachita River, as there’s been talk of a new bridge in that area for decades. Ouachita parish police juror Walt Caldwell says a new bridge in Monroe would cost around $300 million, and there isn’t enough money in the state capital outlay budget to cover the cost.

“They only have a little over $300 million available. So a project like what we’re talking about would completely wipe out the state’s capital outlay budget,” Caldwell said.

The cost for the new Shreveport bridge is projected between $80 and $100 million. Caldwell says the Monroe project would require a lot of federal funding, and that money doesn’t appear to be available either.

“The cost of the project precludes the state being able to fund it. You’re going to have to get the federal government to fund it. In my tenure in office, I’ve seen federal funding dwindle dramatically,” Caldwell said.

West Monroe Senator Mike Walsworth says there were renovations on the Lea Joyner Bridge over the Ouachita River in 2013. He says Monroe-West Monroe already has three bridges essentially within two miles of each other.

“We spent a lot of money on Lea Joyner Bridge. We’ve got three bridges going over the Ouachita River for a population of about 175,000,” Walsworth said.

 
 
 

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Two special sessions later, Louisiana’s budget is still not in good shape. Barry Erwin with the Council for a Better Louisiana says he’s optimistic that in the 2017 fiscal session lawmakers can start looking at long term budget reform. He says otherwise they will still be dealing with midyear cuts.

“A lot of the taxes they passed both last year and in the first special session are all temporary. They’re all going to be falling off the books in 2018. So they set themselves another fiscal cliff,” Erwin said.

Erwin says he hopes lawmakers will be able to work towards this reform across party lines because it’s something both Democrats and Republicans recognize the state needs. He says the question still remains if they will agree to work together.

“The types of reform that we’re talking about are things that we’ve seen before, where you lower sales taxes and make our sales tax base and situation much better than it is and make some adjustments on income taxes that may raise some revenue,” Erwin said.

Erwin says the reform options that are out there are pretty much the same as what they looked at in the special sessions. But he says with next year’s fiscal session, lawmakers will have more time to get the job done.

“We were trying to cram, to some degree, some fiscal reform within three week special sessions, when the other part of the job was to raise enough money to make the budget balanced,” Erwin said.

 
 
 

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Attorney General Jeff Landry says his office is looking into the case of the Baton Rouge mother who was arrested for whipping her children with an electrical cord after they were caught robbing a neighbor’s house. Landry says he wants to make sure the investigation is handled properly.

“I want to make sure that we get all of the facts. There could potentially be liability for the state if we don’t handle this correctly, and I think that overall this is something that concerns me,” Landry said.

Schaquana Spears is facing two counts of child cruelty for disciplining her children, and Landry is concerned the department of children and family services will take her children away. He says he is thankful his mother did not spare the rod to teach him a valuable lesson.

“We’ve painted ourselves in very rigid boxes and not allowed people to have particular discretion. I can tell you that I remember as a young child getting a pretty good whipping from my parents,” Landry said.

The Department of Children and Family Services issued a statement saying discipline is a healthy part of parenting, but it crosses into abuse when it leaves cuts or bruises on the child.

 
 
 

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Louisiana’s major goal of stopping wetland erosion and rebuilding the coast has come to a halt. Director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Restoration Program David Muth says that’s because sea levels are expected to rise higher than previously predicted. But he says that doesn’t mean they’ll stop trying to solve coastal land loss.

“So what we’re talking about here is the difference between no action and action. That difference can be profound and it’s time for us to get moving.”

Muth says the state is using funding from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to build barrier islands, marshes and dredging to limit coastal land loss. He says the most important step is for Louisiana to use sediment from the Mississippi River to build up the marshes.

“We expect that they will formally begin the process of getting permits and designing and building major sediment diversions on the Mississippi River below New Orleans very soon.”

Muth says he’s not surprised that the prediction of reversing coastal land loss in a few decades isn’t possible anymore. But he is optimistic they can reduce the amount of land Louisiana loses every year and that’s through sediment diversions.

“But we also have a tool that nobody else has, which is a river full of sediment that we’re not doing anything with. Unlike many, many coastal communities and ecosystems, we have a way out.”

 
 

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The second special session is over, but ULM political science professor John Sutherlin says Governor John Bel Edwards won’t be taking a breather anytime soon.

“He still has a huge task to go. Come July 1, Governor Edwards is going to have to start looking around at what to cut,” Sutherlin said.

The governor will have to make at least $300 million in cuts to the state budget for next fiscal year. Sutherlin says Edwards will be involved in trying to bolster the state’s ports, roads and bridges, while also working on some job creation projects.

“I would expect to see more infrastructure projects and less of those sort of flashy ribbon cutting ceremonies that we saw under Jindal,” Sutherlin said.

Sutherlin says with a Democrat in the White House it may help Edwards bring down more federal dollars from Washington for infrastructure projects. He anticipates the governor will also look to improve broadband internet service throughout the state.

“Louisiana has an interesting opportunity, because we’re mostly a rural state, to access some USDA funds for broadband development,” Sutherlin said.

 
 
 

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The LSU Board of Supervisors gives the school’s ag center the green light to begin the process of growing medical marijuana that would be dispensed to eligible Louisiana patients. LSU Ag Center Chancellor Doctor Bill Richardson says they plan to grow medical weed on private property, away from campus, inside a facility that needs to be built.

 
"The indoor facility allows us to control the whole growing process, the higher security levels and the optimum use of pesticides to make sure that our product is not contaminated since it is being used in a drug environment."

The AgCenter plans to get a third-party investor involved to help pay for start-up costs. Richardson says while there are some concerns, they are excited about the research possibilities that exist.
 
"A particular drug to treat one five-year-old boy with seizures may not work with the next young man, so the research aspects of this, for the Agricultural Center, the two health sciences centers, and for Pennington. The fact that we can all work on this together is tremendous."
 
 
 
 

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A Shreveport woman is wanted by police for making false accusations that a father molested his 5-month-old daughter. Lt. Bill Davis with the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office says 32-year-old Carrie Rivers was a babysitter for the family of the infant and when her services were no longer needed, she made up this story to make the parents mad. He says this allegation created major problems.

“Made this young child go through some invasive testing and of course the trauma of having the father removed from the home and other things. So we want to find her and we don’t know where she is.”

Davis says authorities believe Rivers is still in the northwest Louisiana area. He says Rivers first confronted the mother of the infant stating that the husband molested her daughter.

“Taking every precaution she could, she went ahead and brought the daughter to the hospital to get checked out and of course that’s when they found out there wasn’t any indication of sexual assault on the child.”

Rivers is also alleged to have taken the mother’s phone. Davis says he doesn’t want an incident like this to stop real victims of sexual assault from coming forward to the police. He says Rivers faces the charges of false swearing; unauthorized use of a moveable; and improper telecommunications.

“These folks who helped her out by giving her a chance to get some employment babysitting, she just basically turned on them and said I want to make them mad and made false accusations. I mean who does that?”

(photo courtesy of Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office)  
 
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards believes the legislature accomplished a lot when it comes to funding important state services but came up short in certain areas. Based on the taxes raised during the two special sessions, Edwards says higher education will not face any cuts, which is good news for students.

“Students in higher education are going to see the smallest increases in tuition in a decade and cuts that would’ve been crippling to our institutions will no longer take effect.”

Edwards says legislators also provided adequate funding for the public-private hospitals that proved care for the poor and uninsured.

“Safety net hospitals that serve communities are going to remain open to serve the needs of the most needy people that we represent.”

Edwards says while the budget is honest and disciplined, he isn’t completely satisfied with the final product. He says state funding for K-12 education will be reduced by 24 million dollars.

“This will limit our ability to reward teachers for educating the leaders of tomorrow, it is not the way that we should do our business if we are truly investing in Louisiana’s future.”

Edwards says he offered a plan to fully fund TOPS, but the scholarship program will only be funded at 70%. He says this is the first time TOPS has ever received a cut.

“Unfortunately, too many members of the legislature would not join me in making sure we could fully fund TOPS.”

 

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