Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam on Tuesday praised the late Lt. Michael Boutte, who was shot and killed Monday afternoon while responding to an emergency call.
“On Feb. 1, 2021, Lieutenant Michael Boutte with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office was shot and killed when he responded to a disturbance call in the Necaise Community,” according to a statement issued Monday evening by Chief Deputy Jeremy Skinner.
“The suspect was shot during the encounter and flown to a hospital for his injuries. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigations along with their Crime Scene Unit responded to the scene and will be working the investigation and reviewing the matter for criminal charges. Upon completion of their investigation, the case will be turned over to the District Attorney’s Office for presentation to a fair and impartial grand jury.
“Lt. Boutte was an outstanding deputy, who loved his job and was loved by those he worked with,” Adam said in the statement.
“He was so committed to fairness and justice and compassion,” Adam said during the press conference Tuesday, “he was just a professional in every way, whether he was dealing with … criminals or the best people there could be. … He was truly loved by everybody who worked here.
“I can’t say enough about him. I can’t say enough about the rest of the men and women that work for our county. I’m absolutely proud to have them working here.”
Boutte “was one of our older guys,” Adam said, “so he’d taken the younger ones under his wing, more or less, to guide them, to show them what it means not only to be a professional and be a deputy the right way, but also to mentor them.”
Boutte was married with two adult children. He was an eight-year law enforcement veteran and veteran of the United States Air Force, where he served in Operation Desert Storm, Adam said. Boutte later attended the United States Marine Corps Police Academy and served in the reserves in New Orleans.
“During his time with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, Boutte was not only a leader to his people, but was awarded the Life Saving Medal for saving a child’s life and was credited with spearheading National Crime Night Out and initiating the Silver Alert Database for the City of Diamondhead,” according to the statement.
“The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office suffered a huge loss today,” Adam said. “Mike was an incredible deputy and more so a fine person. He was a mentor to our younger deputies and I know he will be greatly missed by his peers. You never saw him without a smile or a positive attitude. I can’t begin to describe the heart break we are all experiencing right now. My thoughts, prayers and heart go out to his family and loved ones.”
Adam said Monday that the incident occurred when deputies were called to a residence at Earl C. Ladner Road off of Caesar Necaise Rd. at 1:10 p.m. Monday where a man was allegedly threatening to shoot himself. Adam said that when deputies arrived, the man shot the first officer who approached the scene.
Another deputy who arrived at the scene exchanged gunfire with the suspect, wounding him.
Deputies called in two Life Flight helicopters Monday to airlift both men to New Orleans, and officers from multiple law enforcement agencies arrived on the scene.
The suspect has been identified as Joseph Rohrbacker, 30, originally from Picayune.
Adam would not say his name during the press conference.
“It’s my understanding he’s had three surgeries already,” Adam said during the press conference. “I hope he’s facing capital murder along with a lot of other things. … We’re hoping the charges come out today. When they do, we’ll tell you.”
More than 100 law enforcement officers from around the region gathered Tuesday to escort Boutte’s body to the funeral home.
Adam said Tuesday that Boutte’s death “has rocked this community. He was well thought of. … There’s been an outpouring of support for him and his family and for us here at the sheriff’s office. It’s really touching.”
“Today our hearts weigh heavy, this county has suffered a tremendous loss with passing of Lt. Boutte,” Bay St. Louis Police Chief Gary Ponthieux Jr. posted on the department’s Facebook page. “Please keep his family, friends and brothers and sisters in blue in your prayers and rise together around them and our community.”
“We just lost a brave man in the line of duty,” Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday on Twitter. “Lieutenant Michael Boutte of the Hancock Sheriff’s Dept. His fearless service demonstrates his courage and the outpouring of love demonstrates just how great this loss is. He is a fallen hero. Please pray for the many who loved him.”
Adam said efforts were under way to create a benefit fund for Boutte’s family. In the meantime, he said, “pray for them.”
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is in charge of the case.
The MBI said in a statement late Tuesday afternoon that after he is treated for his injuries, he will be extradited back to Mississippi to face charges.
"MBI Special Agents are gathering evidence as part of this ongoing investigation and will share their findings with the local District Attorney's office," according to the release. "The findings herein are subject to change as this investigation continues."