SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Opening statements began Tuesday morning in the trial of a Farmerville man accused of holding three nurses at gunpoint in the pediatric ICU of a Shreveport hospital, shooting a man who tried to intervene, and carjacking a woman at gunpoint to get away.
According to an amended Bill of Information filed on Monday, 42-year-old Taniel Cole is charged with one count of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of kidnapping, and one count of armed robbery for the August 12, 2020 incident at Oschner LSU Health St. Mary Medical Center that sent the hospital into a lockdown and triggered a massive, multi-state manhunt.
The daylong manhunt involved multiple law enforcement agencies across Louisiana and Mississippi before Cole was captured that same evening.
Jury selection was completed in a single day on Monday. Cole, dressed in an untucked blue polo shirt, stared at the four-man, eight-woman jury, along with two alternate jurors, as they were sworn in by the Clerk of Court and took their seats Tuesday morning.
Caddo Assistant District Attorney Kodie Smith was concise in his opening statement, outlining what happened in the early morning hours of August 12, 2020, after Cole and his girlfriend, Rotaundria Davis, got into an argument the night before at St. Mary’s Medical Center, where her young daughter was a patient in the fourth floor pediatric ICU.
Cole left that evening only to return the next morning with a gun, and a rapid chain of events followed that ultimately concluded that evening with Cole’s capture near Meridian, Miss.
Rather than outline his case in his opening statement, attorney Michael Enright basically told the jury that the defense plans to show that the state is unable to meet the burden of proof.
Lewis was the state’s first witness. On the stand, she testified that her daughter had been transferred in late July to St. Mary’s ICU from a Farmerville hospital after doctors there had been unable to diagnose her illness.
Lewis said she met and started dating Cole in 2018 at the apartment complex where she lived.
Cole, who was with Lewis and her little girl at the hospital on the evening of August 11, became jealous when he learned the child asked to see her biological father and Lewis supported the idea. They argued and he left, only to return to bring some of her things from his car.
Lewis said he slammed the door in the room so hard when he left, it woke the sleeping child.
Lewis told the jury she called the nurse’s station and asked that Cole not be allowed back in. So, when Cole showed back up at the nurses’ station, they alerted her that he was there, and told him he needed to leave.
According to Lewis, Cole wasn’t having it. She said he pulled out a gun, pointed it at the nurses, told them to put their hands up, got behind them and told them to take him to the child’s room.
She also described the altercation when Mario Davenport, the father of a child in the room next door, realized what was going on and tried to stop Cole.
Three shots were fired as Davenport and Cole wrestled with the gun and Davenport was hit in the leg.
Following Lewis’ testimony, each of the nurses was called to testify, all recounting the same chain of events as Lewis, all recalling the terrifying moments as the shots rang out.
The afternoon session began with testimony from the first officer on the scene, followed by the SPD Crime Scene Investigator, who took the jury step-by-step through the crime and her investigation by using video.