St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Deputy James Alan Arterbury lost his life on Independence Day of 1973, while responding to a disturbance call at a Killona bar.
46 years later, the man responsible for his death reached out to the Herald-Guide to express remorse for his actions that night.
Johnson Washington, through a letter written from Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola where he is serving out his sentence, addressed the newspaper in response to a story written in Arterbury’s memory published July 25 (titled “Officer killed in the line of duty remembered on anniversary of death”).
His message read:
“For quite some time, I dealt with the thought of no one wanting to believe what I have to say … I want to say something I have longed to say for the past 46 years. I am truly sorry for my actions. Not one day has passed where I have not prayed for forgiveness and God to strengthen Mr. Arterbury’s family to one day forgive.”
Washington noted he did not want the apology to minimize his actions in any way and said he accepts responsibility for what happened that night.
According to court records, Arterbury arrived at the Nite Cap Lounge at approximately 8:30 p.m. that night and found an unruly crowd waiting. Arterbury returned to his truck to call for assistance, and retrieved his shotgun from the trunk.
When he walked toward the crowd, keeping the muzzle of the gun pointed skyward, the crowd became belligerent and surrounded Arterbury. Someone in the crowd grabbed the shotgun and shot it into the air. In the commotion, another man grabbed the deputy’s revolver from his holster.
Arterbury was shot in the back with his own gun, leaving the crowd to scatter. He was taken to a local hospital, where he died several hours later, never to return home following his shift.
It happened just three years into his law enforcement career. He became the second St. Charles Parish law enforcement officer to be killed in the line of duty.
Washington was identified in the document as the shooter. He was convicted of first-degree murder.
He said he realizes he can never take back what happened, but has tried to do good for others during his time at Angola.
“I have continued sharing with younger men the consequences of being what I was when this crime took place, misguided and immature. I stress how five seconds of poor decision making can cause a lifetime of pain,” Washington said.
Arterbury’s memory is honored with a display at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. He received a Purple Heart posthumously from the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the Sheriff’s Office named the headquarters of its community services division after the fallen officer, christening it the Alan Arterbury Memorial Building in his memory.
He is also honored at the Sheriff’s Office’s Fallen Heroes Memorial, along with Sheriff Lewis Ory, Deputy Nelson Coleman and Deputy Jeff G. Watson, fellow officers who fell in the line of duty. Each year, the Sheriff’s Office holds an annual memorial service to honor those men, and also all Louisiana officers killed in the line of duty in that year.