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Funeral of Deputy Sheriff, Louisiana. Photo © Charlie Varley

Funeral of a Deputy Sheriff, Louisiana - Charlie Varley, 2012

1 July 2013

At five-o’clock on the morning of 16 August 2012 a Deputy Sheriff working a traffic detail in LaPlace, Louisiana, was shot and seriously injured by assailants unknown.

Despite his injuries the deputy provided information that led to the vehicle of the suspect gunmen being tracked to a nearby trailer park. Arriving at the park three officers, Brandon Nielsen, Jeremy Triche and Jason Triche, approached a trailer and questioned a man.

As they did so the officers spotted another man attempting to hide under a blanket inside the trailer. Both men were ordered outside for further questioning.

Suddenly a third man jumped from the trailer, opening fire with an AK-47 killing Deputies Nielsen and Jeremy Triche. Jason Triche was seriously wounded.

Seven people were charged in connection with the attacks. Three of those charged are suspected of belonging to a right wing separatist movement called Sovereign Citizens, a group known to distrust government and despise law enforcement.

Apparently the suspects had been trailed from Kansas through Nebraska and Tennessee and were under surveillance at another Louisiana trailer park following reports the individuals had been seen carrying assault rifles. They then disappeared, only to resurface at LaPlace.

With two deputies killed and two injured this was the deadliest attack on Louisiana law enforcement officers in forty years.

Since the shootings Louisiana’s pro-gun Republican Governor Bobby Jindal has loosened firearms restrictions further enshrining the Second Amendment, the Right to Bear Arms, into state law.

Jindal declared gun ownership a “fundamental right” of all citizens, and blocked both state and federal government from creating firearms laws limiting any potential new restrictions. Louisiana has amongst the loosest firearms laws in America and state law now permits concealed firearms to be carried into places of worship.

In 2011 alone gun related deaths in the USA were reported at over 32,000. More people were killed on the streets of America in one year than on military service in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.

There had been some animosity toward the press at the funeral of Deputy Triche a few days before I took this photograph at Brandon Nielsen’s funeral. The media were corralled into an impossible position far to the right of where this frame was taken, technically making it impossible to capture an image that included the Honor Guard.

I spoke with a number of officers surrounding me. They were happy for me to stay where I was so long as I was respectful and didn’t get in anyone’s way. I was the only photographer to take this position. The image was captured using a 70-200mm zoom on a Canon 5d MkII. The exposure was manually set as always.

Charlie Varley is a British freelance photojournalist based in New Orleans. He is affiliated to SIPA Press in New York and Paris and is represented by the Jonathan Ferrara Fine Art gallery.

He has spent time in Afghanistan documenting radical Hezb-e-Islami rebels, photographed the civil war in Kashmir, was in Hong Kong for the hand over and for three years was the official photographer for the Chivas Regal sponsored Elephant Polo teams in Nepal. In the US he covered hurricane Katrina as it struck New Orleans and the BP oil spill.

From humble beginnings with local newspapers in London, Oxford and Hampshire Charlie graduated to South West News in Bristol where he spent two demanding years as a news, features and PR photographer becoming an expert on all things to do with Fred West and the House of Horrors of Cromwell Street, Gloucester. He moved to America in 1995.

Photographer since 1980. EPUK member since 2011.

See more work by Charlie Varley

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