Waggaman, LA – Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Sergeant Troy Smith died on June 24, approximately one week after he was shot in the head in his bedroom on Father’s Day.
His wife, 35-year-old Shantel Wagner, was arrested for second-degree murder on Wednesday, WGNO reported.
The incident occurred at approximately 11:25 p.m. on June 17, when Wagner called 911 to report that 44-year-old Sgt. Smith had tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head.
The father-of-two was rushed to a local hospital, but succumbed to his injuries seven days later, The Times-Picayune reported.
“Everybody was in disbelief,” Sgt. Smith’s longtime friend and former classmate Henry Latten told The Times-Picayune. “None of this sat right with us.”
Based on forensic evidence and interviews, investigators determined that Sgt. Smith’s gunshot wound was not self-inflicted and obtained a warrant for Wagner’s arrest, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Jason Rivarde told The Times-Picayune.
“We knew the truth would come out,” the sergeant’s longtime friend, retired New Orleans Police Captain Bruce Little said.
Sgt. Smith’s lifelong dream was to become a law enforcement officer, Latten recalled.
“Troy’s wanted to be a police officer since we were in the ninth grade. We used to call him Tackleberry,” Latten said, referring to the highly energetic officer in the “Police Academy” movies.
Capt. Little said that Sgt. Smith, who joined the New Orleans Police Department in 1995, was the “poster boy” for the agency.
During his time with the New Orleans PD, he was a bomb technician and a SWAT team member.
In 2011, he began working for Tulane University and also started training other law enforcement officers in defensive tactics and officer survival, Orleans Levee District Police Chief Kerry Najolia told The Times-Picayune.
Chief Najolia, former Commander of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Training Academy, said that he recruited Sgt. Smith to become an instructor at the training facility in 2013.
Sgt. Smith accepted the position and continued working in that capacity, and as a hostage negotiator, until the time of his murder.
“[His] focus and energy was on keeping policemen alive, keeping them safe,” Chief Najolia said. “He was just an outstanding person and a wonderful, knowledgeable instructor.”
He was also a civilian contractor with the Department of Defense, and was a First Lieutenant in the Mississippi State Guard, according to his obituary.
In 2017, Sgt. Smith was named Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year for both the State Guard Association of the United States and the Mississippi State Guard, The Times-Picayune reported.
According to court records, Sgt. Smith and Wagner had been married since November of 2016, The Times-Picayune reported.
Although they had filed for bankruptcy on June 1, the couple generally seemed happy.
“You can tell when a man loves a woman,” neighbor Kathy LaBorde told The Times-Picayune. “You could tell he loved her. And I thought she loved him.”
Despite investigators’ findings, an attorney where Wagner worked as a paralegal maintained that Sgt. Smith’s gunshot wound was self-inflicted.
Leo Palazzo alleged that the sergeant was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We have evidence from the day he took his own life that he was depressed, had been drinking and taking muscle relaxers and had been engaging in dark, suicidal social media posts,” Palazzo told The New Orleans Advocate.
“This is a true tragedy. But this is a suicide, not a homicide,” the attorney said.
He added that Wagner has been “in shock” since the incident occurred, The New Orleans Advocate reported.
“She’s been traumatized by the whole event,” Palazzo said.
But Latten said that the outcome of the investigation confirmed the suspicions that he and Sgt. Smith’s friends and coworkers had been mulling for weeks, according to The Times-Picayune.
“She walked up to me and said, ‘I just want you to know that Troy did not kill himself. I was in the bedroom with him, and it was an accident,'” Latten said of one conversation he had with Wagner.
Wagner was booked into the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center on a $500,000 bond.
Sgt. Smith leaves behind two sons, Dominic and Gabriel, and two stepdaughters, Vayda and Layla, according to his obituary.
He was laid to rest on June 30.