LAPLACE, La. -- St. John Parish deputies believe a potential mass casualty shooting at the disaster relief center in LaPlace was averted thanks to quick action by a state employee and police on the scene.
Investigators say 46-year-old Mark Knight was denied disaster food stamps, stormed out of the center and grabbed an assault rifle from the back of his pick-up truck.
"This AR-15 was locked, loaded, it had one bullet in the chamber, it was off safety and he was ready to go," said St. John Sheriff Mike Tregre.
A worker at the center reportedly saw Knight fumbling with his gun and notified deputies, state police and National Guard MPs on duty at the center.
"We had about 300 to 400 people in the site at the time," said Department of Children and Family Services spokesman Trey Williams. "His gun was loaded. He had additional weapons that he could have gotten."
"The officers converged on the suspect quickly and subdued him without him having the opportunity to use this weapon," said Tregre.
The sheriff showed pictures of what his deputies found when they searched Knight's camper at the Johnny Court off of River Road trailer park.
"When we got there, we opened the door and were greeted with a number of snakes," said Tregre. "I think we collected 13 pythons yesterday at his mobile trailer."
"We saw them carry about 15 or 20 snakes, some really big," said Knight's neighbor at the trailer park Dawn Hernandez. "They told us there were poisonous ones in there and that they would sleep with them. They were roaming free in the house I heard."
Trege said in addition to the snakes, investigators found something else in Knight's trailer that now leads them to believe his actions at the disaster relief center may have been premeditated.
"We have no doubt that he was about to do something that would have probably taken the lives of officers, military and citizens, because and I can tell you this, we did obtain a note and it appears to be a note of last will and testimony at his trailer," he said.
Thursday, deputies added attempted second-degree murder to the list of charges against Knight.
Knight is from Utah and was last employed at the Pepsi plant in St. John. He was out of work at the time of his arrest.
The sheriff said investigators continue to look into his background to determine if he belonged to the Sovereign Citizens.
Some of the suspects arrested in last month's shooting of four St. John deputies had ties to the anti-government movement.