DA: Negligent homicide charge possible against officer in deadly crash, victim remembered for his “open heart”

BATON ROUGE – As the investigation into a deadly crash involving Baton Rouge police officers continues, UWK has learned that the officer driving the car that hit Caleb Chappetta could face a negligent homicide charge as the district attorney investigates.

“Pending an investigation, there could possibly be a charge negligent homicide and that would be all based on the facts and circumstances that are developed through the police investigation,” East Baton Rouge Parish DA Hillar Moore explained. He says the officer driving would most likely be the only one to face a charge.

“I’m going to review it like any other case and present it to a grand jury,” said Moore. “I don’t know what the victim’s family’s position would be and we want their input and want to respect it, but if I see enough to move forward with a charge, then we can.”

Investigation underway

Per standard procedure, the Baton Rouge Police Department’s traffic homicide division is overseeing the investigation into Friday night’s crash. UWK has learned that neither female officer involved in the crash was buckled. Multiple sources say they were driving upwards of 80 mph and did not stop at the red light at S. Foster and Government St. while responding to an officer-involved shooting two miles away.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s office has determined that Chappetta’s cause of death is multi-system trauma secondary to a motor vehicle crash, and the manner of death has been classified as an accident. Toxicology results for Chappetta, 38, are still pending, which follows standard protocol for accidents in Louisiana. These results typically take between six to eight weeks to be completed.

Deadly crash details

The officers crashed into Chapetta’s car as they were making a left onto Government St. from S. Foster while on the way to the reported officer-involved shooting.

Chapetta, who also was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected and killed. The officers crashed into a utility pole, and sources say airbags kept them from being ejected.

The officers were transported to the hospital where blood and urine samples were taken, per protocol. The traffic homicide division must now pull the black boxes and data from the vehicles like the police car’s speed at the time of impact. They will also be able to pull the dash camera footage. Once all that is completed, BRPD would have to be the one to arrest their own officer is there is enough evidence for an arrest.

The officer in the passenger seat underwent surgery following the crash. The driver was released from the hospital hours later.

“Light up any environment with his infectious smile”

Caleb Chappetta

Chapetta, who was born deaf, attended the Louisiana School for the Deaf and was a 2005 graduate of Slidell High School. He’s remembered as a man who could “light up any environment with his infectious smile” and ” and as someone who was “always laughing, joking, and generally loving life.”

He worked at Glaz Tech in Baton Rouge for the past five years. Friends and co-workers say he was the “life of the party”. While he was born deaf, his obituary says that “not hearing was his greatest strength.”

“He was able to walk headstrongly into any situation and room and not have any pre-conceived ideas or notions towards any individual, letting him fairly evaluate every encounter truly making bonds with whoever he met. He never needed to say anything, and he never let negativity bring him down. Just his presence would light up any environment with his infectious smile and he was always laughing, joking, and generally loving life. Anyone that was lucky enough to know Caleb knew of his bright sense of humor and eagerness to please and help those around him. If there was ever a family function, a friend moving, or chores that needed doing, Caleb was there to help with open hands and an open heart. He brought so much joy and love to those that knew him, and he will be deeply missed and never forgotten.”

A memorial service will be held on October 28 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at Audubon Funeral Home at 61101 Highway 11 in Slidell. Prayers and readings will begin at Noon.

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