The mother of the teenager killed by law enforcement in Jefferson Parish on Tuesday alleges that Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies shot her son without announcing themselves or giving him a chance to surrender.
Mallory Cains, 37, a 17-year veteran of local sheriff’s offices including JPSO, witnessed the scene on Tuesday that left her 18-year-old son, Calvin Cains III, shot dead at the hands of Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies.
It was all simultaneous, she said: as she watched two unmarked vehicles block off her son’s car, she heard a series of gunshots.
“Boom, the truck hit him. The other truck hit him. And I heard shots. All the same instant.”
She feels like the sheriff’s office immediately made an effort to cover up the truth. While she heard the gunshots at around 3 p.m., she was kept in a squad car until about 5 p.m, without any updates on her son’s status, other than to say that he was fine. “I believe that they waited two hours to tell me that my son was dead,” she said.
Her story contradicts the narrative described by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto, who said earlier this week that Calvin Cains had reversed and was preparing to drive into the officers when one of them opened fire.
His mother, Mallory, says there’s no way that’s true.
“He had just gotten into the car. There was no time for him to do anything and for them to react. They shot him immediately in the head, through the windshield.”
Just after 3 p.m. Tuesday, Cains says she was on her way home with her six-year-old son, Calvin’s little brother. She pulled into the driveway of the Lumiere Apartments on West Esplanade Avenue, where she resides in Building 20. She expected to arrive home and see Calvin, whom they called Trey, who had called her on FaceTime while she was at work and asked her to pick up milk, since he had a taste for a bowl of cereal.
Calvin, a 2023 graduate of Booker T. Washington High School in New Orleans, lives on his own with a girlfriend, she said, but he often stops through to do laundry or see her. That morning, when she left for work, she’d left a specific door of her apartment unlocked because he said he was going to stop through, she said.
When she reached Building 13, by the leasing office, an unmarked small pickup truck pulled out to follow her and a deputy got out, ran toward her and asked her to stop.
“Mallory?” he asked. His tone was very serious, she said. “Step out of the car,” he said. She followed directions. The officer looked in the car and found only her six-year-old son, Calvin’s little brother. She asked him what she had done. ”You didn’t do anything,” he said. “We’re looking for your son, Calvin. Have you seen him?”
The original JPSO statement, emailed to press about the matter, said that Calvin Cains III walked out of the building as they were doing surveillance on a Toyota C-HR, which they believed was involved in a shooting in New Orleans. But their questioning of his mother and later statements make it clear that they were on the hunt not only for the Toyota but for Cains.
After the shooting, JPSO officials noted that Cains was wanted for a warrant out of Orleans Parish associated with an aggravated battery charge for a June 4 shooting of a 30-year-old male driver who had followed a Toyota that almost swerved into his car in the Treme neighborhood.
According to Lopinto, Cains was also known to JPSO deputies related to prior cases, nearly all related to guns and drugs, he said.
The JPSO account alleges that Calvin Cains put his car into gear, forcing deputies to fire on him in his car. Cain “put one of our deputies’ lives in danger,” said Lopinto, who described the shooting as “proper force.”
Not true, says Mallory Cains, who said that she is comfortable with law enforcement because she had worked as a deputy locally – for JPSO and for Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office – for a total of 17 years, she said.
Just as she was about to answer the deputy who had stopped her, she saw Calvin come out of the front doors of Building 20.
If she had known what was about to happen, she would have called out to her son, she says now.
Instead, she stayed silent, thinking that she would simply watch the deputies apprehend him, she said. “I didn’t want to get in the way of the deputies doing their job.”
She also knew sheriff-department protocols, which only allowed deputies to shoot suspects if faced with “deadly force.” She never saw the situation in front of her rise to that level, she said.
As soon as he climbed into the Toyota, Mallory Cains saw an unmarked white Ford F150 coming right toward the front of the car so fast that she thought it was going to impact him head-on. At the same time, another truck, an unmarked Toyota RAV4, she believes, was moving just as fast toward him from his driver’s side. Simultaneously, she heard gunshots, she said. “It was all the same instant.”
She rushed to cover her younger son’s eyes while feeling terror about her son’s condition. But a female NOPD officer came to her location and told her that her son was all right, she said. “Trust me, he’s not shot,” the officer told her.
Mallory Cains said that the person who was on FaceTime with her son recounted the same timeline. The caller heard Calvin Cains say, “Oh shit, it’s the people” followed by gunshots. Then the phone went silent.
NOPD did not respond to questions about the incident from The Lens, and it is unclear what their involvement was. Rivarde emphasized that JPSO alone is in charge of the investigation.
As Mallory Cains looked toward her apartment, she saw green smoke around the Toyota that her son was driving, from smoke grenades, she was told. Deputies started to walk toward the Toyota with SWAT-team shields and AR-15 rifles. She was told to back her car into a parking spot by the leasing office and was ushered into the back of another unmarked car, driven by a JPSO deputy.
At the time, she sincerely believed what she was told. But now she believes that the lies started then. “That’s when they started to play with me,” she said.
She was instructed to call her son, as if he was resisting arrest. She called and called, with no answer. Instead, she sat in the squad car for the next two hours, terrified about what was happening, but wanting to remain calm because of her younger son. “I also trusted what the NOPD officer had told me, that he was okay,” she said.
At one point, she heard one of the officers make a loud amplified announcement: “Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office: Get out of the car.”
Now she wonders if that announcement and her instructions to call him were simply theater. She heard no more shots, so she thought the deputies must have taken her son into custody. No one told her about him having a weapon in the car, she said. And physically, her son is small. He only weighs about 110 pounds, she said. She didn’t believe that he is someone who would naturally instill fear in people.
An ambulance arrived later, 30 to 40 minutes later, she’s guessing, after she’d heard the shots. It ended up leaving with no sirens on, she said.
Then, just before 5 p.m., a male detective from NOPD came to speak with her.
“What’s going on with my baby?” she asked.
“Calvin is fine. Let’s go into the leasing office. I know you’re sick of sitting in the car,” he said. There, someone offered them water, she said.
Then the same officer looked her in the eyes and told her, “I don’t know how else to say it. He didn’t make it.”
She says that her son had been making regular court appearances for the other charges he was facing. “He wasn’t hiding from them or anything,” she said.
Court records show that Cains had appeared in Orleans Parish Criminal Court on May 16, and had a hearing in Jefferson Parish on June 1. The shooting that he was wanted for didn’t occur until June 4, just two days prior to his death at the hands of JPSO. It does not appear he had any court dates between June 1 and June 4.
Capt. Jason Rivarde from JPSO said that “to preserve the sanctity of the investigation,” he couldn’t release any additional information except what had already been released.
“The investigation is ongoing,” he said. “There’s one group that is investigating, that’s us. Anything else is speculation. That’s the bottom line.”
None of the deputies involved have been named by the department. Lopinto has said that two of them were wearing body cameras, and that that footage will be reviewed.
In a statement, the ACLU of Louisiana, who has pushed for a federal investigation into JPSO over racist policing and excessive force, called on the department to “immediately release” the body camera and any dashcam footage of the incident.
“Public safety in Louisiana will not improve if police are not held accountable for their actions,” the statement reads. “We cannot continue this pattern of police violence and the repeated failure to investigate excessive force adequately.”
Nick Chrastil contributed to this story.