Mandeville, LA - Mandeville Police Captain Vincent "Vinny" Liberto was murdered in the line of duty on Friday when he was shot by a suspect at the end of a pursuit.
Louisiana State Police are investigating the incident that began at about 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 when Captain Liberto joined another officer in the pursuit of a vehicle that had refused to stop, The Times-Picayune reported.
All of the vehicles crashed near Louisiana 22.
That’s when the suspect – later identified as 21-year-old Mark Spicer, got out of his vehicle and opened fire on Capt. Liberto’s unmarked police vehicle, shooting through the windows, The Times-Picayune reported.
Capt. Liberto was fatally shot.
St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith said another officer sustained a graze wound to his head, The Times-Picayune reported.
Police said Spicer fled on foot toward a nearby McDonald’s and then into the Beau Chene subdivision.
Officers flooded the neighborhood and cleared golfers off the golf course while they searched for the shooter, The Times-Picayune reported.
Spicer was apprehended and taken into custody. Sheriff Smith said officers recovered a weapon at the scene.
Another person who was in the car with Spicer was not arrested, but suffered minor injuries in the crash, according to The Times-Picayune.
Spicer was charged with first-degree murder of a police officer, attempted first-degree murder of a police officer, aggravated flight from an officer, and possession of stolen property.
Capt. Liberto, 58, was a 25-year veteran of the Mandeville Police Department and had previously served five years with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.
He is survived by his wife, Tracey, and seven children, two of whom are also law enforcement officers, The Times-Picayune reported.
"First and foremost, he was a family man," Mandeville Police Chief Gerald Sticker said.
Capt. Liberto was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Several of his children also served in the U.S. Marine Corps and his wife said he kept a flag representing the Corps in his front yard, The Times-Picayune reported.
Tracey said her husband kept twin wreaths – one for the Marines and a second for police – mounted on their front door.
Chief Sticker said the fallen hero “was all about service to his country and his community.”
Capt. Liberto was the third highest-ranking officer in his department and was responsible for all of the department's enforcement functions, including patrol, investigations, and traffic, The Times-Picayune reported.
The captain was a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy at Quantico, the Officer Down Memorial Page reported.
Chief Sticker said Capt. Liberto rose through the ranks in the department to ultimately supervise more than half of the police force.
"In each role, he was the same guy," the chief said. "He never let the title affect him."
He said some in the department referred to Capt. Liberto as a “gentle giant” and that reputation was solidified when he and his wife delivered donated meals to the cops on duty around Mandeville’s parade routes, The Times-Picayune reported.
Even defense attorneys who worked with Capt. Liberto had nice things to say about the hero.
"He was a great cop. He was a very reasonable, fair-minded investigator,” defense attorney Buddy Spell told The Times-Picayune.
"He was always polite and upbeat and pleasant," Spell said. "I really enjoyed working with Vinny."
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Mandeville Police Captain Vincent "Vinny" Liberto, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Captain Liberto, your life mattered.