Saturday, May 18, 2024

Bossier Parish History: Routine Task for Deputy Turns Tragic at Bossier Parish Plantation 

by BPT Staff
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Kevin Flowers | Bossier Parish History Center

The March, 1954 issue of Louisiana Peace Officer, the journal of the Louisiana Peace Officers Association, contains an article paying tribute to two local men killed in the line of duty. The author of the article writes, “… Louisiana law enforcement has suffered its worst blow in the memory of its oldest officers.” That “worst blow” left the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Department and the Shreveport Police Department each asking, “why?” It also underscored how, for those of the thin blue line, even a routine assignment can turn deadly.

Kevin Flowers Bossier Parish History Center

Only a month earlier, on the afternoon of February 27th, no one could have foreseen the tragedy that was about to unfold. Bossier Deputy Maurice Miller, a 42-year-old World War II veteran, went to serve a warrant, which was a task that he had performed thousands of times during his career, according to the journal article. And he was serving it on someone he knew, a farmhand named Ed “Man” West. The Bossier Planter’s Press newspaper stated in an account at the time that Miller “had reportedly befriended Man West. …West had been in trouble with the law on a number of occasions and each time he came to Miller for advice and help.”  The paper quotes Bossier officers as saying Miller “had no reason to believe that West would try to harm him.”

At approximately 2 p.m., Deputy Miller arrived at the home of Hattie London, West’s mother, on the plantation of Leonard Woodruff just south of Taylortown on Highway 71. The 36-year-old West was staying with her and being served for non-support of his family. After Miller stepped inside, the apparent friendly relations between he and West suddenly turned violent. According to the Bossier Banner Progress, West shot Miller and then struck him in the head with an ax. Miller was mortally wounded. The paper states that Ms. London ran from the house screaming. Woodruff, hearing her cries and seeing Miller’s patrol unit parked in front of the house, immediately called police. 

An estimated 50 officers arrived on scene, including members of the state police.  Attempts to talk West into surrendering were futile. He fired on officers who initially were hesitant to return fire for fear of hitting Miller who they thought might still be alive. West refused to come out. An article in the 1994 winter issue of the North Louisiana Historical Association Journal details what happened next. “Officers attempted to drive West out with tear gas bombs. …the effort was unsuccessful because a strong west wind dispersed the tear gas…” Another approach was then tried. The article states that Ms. London entered the house at the request of police to convince her son to give himself up, but that too failed. She was able to bring out two rifles and a pistol, although West was still armed with a shotgun. And she told police she believed Miller was dead.  

With a large crowd of onlookers gathered near the house, Shreveport Police Chief Edward G. Huckabay arrived with a fresh supply of tear gas. At 47, he had been with the Shreveport Police Department for 17 years, signing on as a patrolman and then becoming chief in 1946, according to the Louisiana Peace Officer journal. The additional gas was fired into the house, but still West remained inside. It was then that Chief Huckabay made a fateful decision.  

Trying to put an end to the confrontation, Huckabay decided to enter the house. A report in The Times the next day states that Bossier Parish Sheriff Willie Waggonner said the decision to go in was made “because it was thought that West was dead or unable to resist further.” Followed by several other officers, Huckabay cautiously stepped inside. The report states the remaining tear gas and dark interior coupled with smoke from a fire ignited in a bedroom by a tear gas canister made spotting West very difficult. 

Still in possession of his shotgun, West fired at Huckabay, hitting him in the neck and chest. The other officers returned fire, striking and killing West. The bodies of Miller and West were removed from the house, while Huckabay was rushed to the hospital. He died en route. The fire in the bedroom quickly spread, engulfing the house. Approximately three hours had passed since Deputy Miller had arrived to serve the warrant.  

If you have any photos or other information relating to the history of Bossier Parish, the History Center may be interested in adding the materials to its research collection by donation or by scanning them and returning the originals. Call or visit us to learn more. We are open M-Th 9-8, Fri 9-6, and Sat 9-5. Our phone number is (318) 746-7717 and our email is [email protected].  We can also be found online at https://www.facebook.com/BPLHistoryCenter/ and http://bpl-hc.blogspot.com/

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