HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Trying hard to hold back his emotion, Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam held a press conference Tuesday to talk about the death of Lt. Michael Boutte.
Boutte was shot Monday while responding to a disturbance call in the Necaise community. Sheriff Adam said he was shot in the face and head. He died shortly after being taken to a New Orleans hospital.
At the press conference, the sheriff - who was visibly choked up - said Boutte had 20 years of law enforcement experience as both a deputy and in his military career.
‘A fine fellow’
A married father of two adult children, Boutte was not just a deputy to be looked up to by those in the department, but a person who was looked up to by everyone who knew him, said Adam.
“Mike was a fine fellow. He wasn’t just a great deputy. He was a great person, just a fine fellow. To say all things that make Mike a great cop, I’d be up here for days,” said the sheriff. “I could just go on and on about every time we ever needed anything. Any time we needed anything, someone in the community flagged him down and needed something, he was there.”
“He was committed to his community, to all the communities he worked in,” the sheriff continued. “He was committed to fairness and justice and he was just a professional in every way, whether he was dealing with common criminals or the best people in the community. He treated everyone the same. He was just professional.”
Boutte was a deputy in Hancock County for the last eight years.
“He was one of our older guys and he’s taken the younger ones under his wings, more or less to guide them and show them what it takes to be not just a professional and do their job the right way, the professional way, but also just mentoring and being able to talk to them. They could bounce stuff off of him.”
Sheriff Adam said he started as a part-time deputy and liked the direction the department was going in so he became a full-time deputy.
“He bought in and he never had a bad day,” said the sheriff.
Boutte is the first deputy to die in the line of duty under Adam’s administration as sheriff.
“While we’ll never understand God’s reason for taking Mike from us at this moment, this loss will remain unhealed for quite some time. I hope and pray that family and friends of Mike find comfort in knowing he was truly loved by everyone who worked here,” said the sheriff.
‘It doesn’t matter’
Few details have been released about the suspect who killed Boutte. At the press conference Tuesday, Sheriff Adam did not release the man’s name, saying: “I wouldn’t say his name right now and give him the exposure it would take.”
Charges are expected to be filed against the suspect later Tuesday, said the sheriff.
“I hope he’s facing capital murder along with a lot of other things. Maybe aggravated assault and whatever else comes along with it,” said Adam when asked about the charges.
The sheriff did note that the suspect is not someone who was known to the sheriff’s department but hesitated to say much else. When asked if the suspect was an older man, the sheriff responded, “It doesn’t matter.”
On Monday, authorities said the suspect was shot by another deputy who pulled up to the scene right after Boutte. He has had three surgeries as of Tuesday morning, said the sheriff during the press conference, noting that any questions about the suspect or the investigation could be directed to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.
MBI later on Tuesday identified the suspect as Joseph Michael Rohrbacker.
‘Pray for us, pray for them’
Now, as the community grieves the loss of Boutte, they continue to reach out to the sheriff’s department and to the slain deputy’s family.
“It rocks this community but he was well thought of in this county with the people he dealt with and there has been an outpouring of support for him and his family and for the sheriff’s office,” said Adam. “It’s really touching and I’m proud of the citizens of this county.”
Diamondhead’s council meeting Tuesday evening began with an emotional testimony as those who Boutte once protected listed all the good he’s done.
“Lt. Michael Boutte was a public servant, a community leader, a community friend. We lost one of our best,” said Mayor Nancy Depreo.
Even Gov. Tate Reeves began his press conference Tuesday with remarks about Boutte.
“We lost someone that has served in the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office since 2013,” Reeves said. “They loved him because he didn’t just ride around in his cruiser and check things out. He got out and talked to the people. Michael will receive every honor that the state has to provide.”
In the coming days, Adam said his department and Boutte’s family are in need of prayers more than anything but did add some people were working on setting up a fund for the family and helping them with benefits.
The support from area law enforcement agencies on the Coast and around the state has also brought comfort.
On Tuesday morning, Boutte’s body was brought back to Mississippi. More than 100 law enforcement vehicles from dozens of agencies helped escort him over the Louisiana state line, bringing their fallen brother home.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.