The victim of a fatal shooting by an FBI agent was unarmed and shot at point-blank range with a rifle, the first report released on the incident reveals.
But reporters, family, and friends still have many questions surrounding the fatal shooting of Allen Desdunes by an FBI agent in August 2013.
According to the report released this week, Allen Desdunes was shot in his car with a .223-caliber rifle at close range by FBI Special Agent John Sablatura while in the parking lot of a Motel 6 in the eastern part of New Orleans that summer. A report by Louisiana State Police says that Sablatura fired one shot from his rifle striking Desdunes near his mouth, split the back of his skull and buried itself under the skin. The coroner’s report says the bullet shattered Desdunes’ skull from “front to back, left to right and upward,” causing burns and abrasions on his skin.
Investigators said these reports raise more questions than they answer. The State Police don’t mention where Sablatura was standing when he fired nor do they say what prompted the agent to react with deadly force. In fact, Sablatura’s identity was kept secret for two years after the release of the initial report.
When Desdunes’ family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, the court filings revealed that Desdunes was a heroin dealer turned FBI informant. He reported to the Bureau daily before changing cell phones and breaking off contact with agents. The extent of his relationship with the FBI remains unknown, including questions over whether agents let Desdunes continue dealing in exchange for ratting on his dealer.
The court documents further revealed that the FBI had flagged Desdunes as part of a “heroin distribution organization” in early 2013 and sent agents to tail him starting May 1, 2013. The FBI stopped and searched Desdunes finding 100 grams of heroin in his possession. Instead of taking him to jail, the FBI coerced their target into cooperating as a drug informant. Initially, Desdunes communicated with his contact every day but stopped calling after a week, according to the FBI.
The FBI claims that a few weeks later, another FBI informant gave agents Desdunes’ new number, and the FBI then surveilled Desdunes disposing of “heroin-laced packaging material” in the parking lot of the Motel 6 on the Interstate 10 Service Road. The FBI allegedly confronted their ex-informant on July 30, 2013.
FBI records show they had been surveilling Desdunes for weeks monitoring GPS data from his cellphone. The FBI misled investigators into believing that Desdunes was peddling drugs out of the Motel 6 without the approval of the agency.
Five days after his death, USA Today published an article claiming the FBI helped its informants commit 5,658 crimes in a single year. In June 2013, The New York Times reported that the FBI determined every case of the 150 agent-involved shootings over an 18 year period were justified. The FBI’s behavior, especially in the wake of high-profile police killings, has led many activists, lawyers, journalists, and investigators to scrutinize the agency’s claims.
The New Orleans FBI Office has yet to release its internal review report turning away the district attorney and ignoring public-records requests for documents related to the shooting.
After filing their lawsuit the Erniquia Desdunes, the victim’s sister-in-law, spoke to the media saying, “We are here tonight to celebrate a human being, a father, a brother, a cousin, a son lost his life. We only want to know what his chances of survival were. We don’t care what he was doing or how it was done. He was a human being. He deserves answers and we deserve answers. He died by himself, but he lived with many, and we will not stop, we will not slumber until we know why he was killed.”
When asked about their contact with the FBI, she responded, “We have a lot of questions for them, but it seems they want to interrogate us about his lifestyle and what he may or may not have been doing. We don’t have any information to add in that regard. But we have plenty of questions for them.”