Suspected shooter is the third person arrested in homicide first believed to have been automobile accident

Around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, detectives with the Plaquemine Police Department officers with the assistance of deputies from the East Baton Rouge Sheriiff's Office arrested a third suspect in the murder of a man while he was driving north on La. 1.

Police Chief Kenny Payne said Darius Washington, 30, 23440 Marshall St., Plaquemine, is believed to have been the shooter in the crime committed last Wednesday, Sept. 12.

"Eyewitnesses put him iin the car with the two people we had already arrested and his cellphone records confirmed he was in the immediate vicinity at the time of the crime," Payne said.

Washington was charged with second degree murder and booked into the Pointe Coupee Parish Detention Center.

Around 10 p.m. last Wednesday night, the Plaquemine Police Department received a call reporting an automobile accident on La. 1 but the responding officer found the incident to be much more serious.

The driver of the vehicle, Travis Washington, 24, of Plaquemine, had been shot in the shoulder, Police Chief Kenny Payne said. Two people have been arrested so far and another suspect is sought by police.

Washington was transported to Oschner Medical Center first, then airlifted to a Baton Rouge hospital, where he died, according to the chief.

The two arrested were Larry Grant Jr., 40, 58285 Meriam St., Plaquemine, and Jacquel R. Smith, 18, 7253 Connaugh Dr., Marrero. Grant is charged with one count of being an accessory after the fact to first degree murder while Smith faces a single count of being a principle to second degree murder.

“When I was contacted about the shooting, I called the sheriff (Brett Stassi) and asked for assistance from his crime scene investigator, Lori Morgan,” Payne said.

Stassi sent her as well as his chief detective, Maj. Ronnie Hebert, and several detectives to evaluate the crime scene.

The incident began when the victim’s car was headed northbound on La. 1 and swerved off the highway, across the median and struck a culvert, Payne said. “The driver was bleeding, but first responders thought it was caused by the accident initially until closer examination showed a bullet wound in his shoulder.”

The female passenger, Smith, was taken into custody and questioned but she was not very cooperative, Payne said, and seemed to be under the influence of an illegal substance. It was later determined she had taken cocaine, he said.

Detectives from both law enforcement agencies scoured local businesses for any surveillance video that might lend clues to the investigation.

“The quality of the video only gave us a vague idea of what our suspect looked like,” Payne said, adding one of the videos showed a heavyset black male between 5-foot-10 and 6-foot-2, wearing a dark shirt and what appeared to be khaki pants.

The description matched those given by eyewitnesses who saw the man, later found to be Grant, climb out of the vehicle after the wreck, Payne said.

While the shooter has not been arrested yet, the police chief said the crime was still under investigation. “We have several leads that point to who the shooter is,” he said.

“The physical evidence from the scene indicates that someone in the back seat of the vehicle shot the victim,” Payne said. “It appears he came across the seat, placed the gun on Washington’s shoulder and shot downward, which is consistent with the evidence.”

Payne said he wanted to express his appreciation to Stassi, Morgan and the detectives with the Sheriff’s Office as well as his detectives, “who have been tirelessly working this case since Wednesday night.”

He also wanted to thank the Baton Rouge Police Department for its assistance through its crimestopper phone tip line.