Louisiana Deputies Accused of Brutality
NEW ORLEANS (CN) - Louisiana sheriff's officers ruptured a man's spleen and threw him and another man in jail, allegedly for robbing a check-cashing place, though the actual robber had already admitted he did it, the two beating victims claim in court.
David Will and Shane Ellzey sued St. Bernard Parish Sheriff James Pohlmann, his Office and eight of his officers, in Federal Court.
St. Bernard Parish is immediately south of New Orleans. Parishes in Louisiana are equivalent to counties.
The lawsuit states: "Will and Ellzey were falsely arrested on 30 August 2012 for crimes they did not commit, were physically injured by the defendant officers, which caused Will to be placed in ICU at University Hospital for five days for a ruptured spleen caused by being kicked in the chest and other injuries suffered by Will and also Ellzey.
"Their false arrest caused them to be under the cloud of prosecution for crimes they did not commit, which charges were after more then ten months dismissed by the district attorney."
The men claim defendant Officer Randy Baiamonte "kicked and beat Will while Will was handcuffed, causing serious, permanent physiological injuries."
They claim the seven other officers' "actions and failure to act" caused or contributed to the injuries and civil rights violations, and that Sheriff Pohlmann's policies and procedures also caused them.
"Hurricane Isaac struck coastal Louisiana causing power outages and other damages on or about 29-30 August 2012," the complaint states.
"St. Bernard Parish was effected [sic] by the storm and suffered from such outages and damages, including the St. Bernard Parish community of Poydras.
"At approximately 11:25 hours, on 30 August 2012, the Quick Check store located at 617 Bayou Road in St. Bernard Parish (Zip Code 70085) was victimized by burglary.
"Neither David Will nor Shane Ellzey were involved in the burglary not [sic] did they receive any things taken from the store.
"However the defendants named herein arrested Will and Ellzey, falsely charged them with certain felonies, and caused them to be falsely imprisoned for extended periods of time." (Parentheses in complaint.)
The defendants charged Will and Ellzey with "looting and possession of stolen things, respectively," according to the compliant.
It continues: "Although the defendants and the Court soon got a confession and plea bargin [sic] from the juvenile who did rob the Quick Check store and that individual did not implicate Will or Ellzey in the robbery, defendants continued to prosecute Will and Ellzey and to keep Will incarcerated.
"The defendants also falsely arrested other persons in the immediate neighborhood and charged them with similar offenses as well. Those persons, like Will and Ellzey, did not commit the crimes alleged and like Will and Ellzey, all charges have been dropped against the other persons. ...
"At the time of the incident which took place on 30 August 2012, Will and Ellzey and many of eyewitness [sic] were on the scene and shall testify to the events that took place including the arrest of the juvenile who admitted to looting the Quick Check store.
"Defendant Officers Baiamonte, Bruscato, Poche, Garofalo, Johnson, Tanner, DeLaune and others went to the Robert Drive area when they received a second call around 15:00 hours saying that a juvenile was seen fleeing the Quick Check and running down Robert Street to the area where Will and Ellzey and many other [sic] lived. The juvenile was encountered, admitted to have burglarized the store and to having stolen cigarettes and other items. He was arrested and charged.
"In an attempt to protect her son, the juvenile's mother Ms. Demary told the defendant officers that Will and Ellzey had committed the robbery and stolen the goods, in order to extracate [sic] her son although he had already admitted to the crimes.
"Defendant officers asked the 15 persons at the scene if any knew the whereabouts of Shane Ellzey or David Will. Ellzey was standing on the porch of 1605 Robert Drive, identified himself and walked down to speak with defendant Officer Baiamonte. Baiamonte arrested and handcuffed Ellzey and placed him in Deputy Arcement's patrol unit.
"He was subsequently taken to the jail on St. Bernard highway, where he and others witnesses [sic] certain of these same defendants officer throw Will face-first on the jail house floor, and drag him on his face, which he was handcuffed behind his back.
"Ellzey and others screamed at the defendant officers demanding that they stop banging Will on the floor because they feared that the officers were going to kill him. Will was already unconscious at the point, have [sic] been beaten and kicked by defendant Baiamonte and others at the scene of his initial arrested [sic] on Robert Street.
"When Baiamonte and [sic] could not find Will, a woman on the scene pointed to a house across the street and suggested that Will might be there behind the house.
"Not having committed a crime and having seen what defendants Baiamonte had already done to the other citizens who also had not committed any crimes, Will had crawled under the house across the street.
"The elevation on the house was limited and when defendant Baiamonte and defendant Mark Tanner and/or defendant Trey Delaune called for Will to come out from under the house, Will did so.
"In order to come out from under the house, Will crawled with both hands under his chest and came out head first. Baiamonte pepper sprayed Will while he as [sic] coming out.
"Defendant Delaune struck ('single knee strike') Will in his left side of his chest as he was coming out from under the house and caused what was ultimately found to be a ruptured spleen.
"Baiamonte and his co-defendants handcuffed then beat Will repeatedly and transferred him to jail where they threw him face-first on the floor although Will was already unconscious.
"Officers at the jail fabricated the fact that Will had been drinking and must have been intoxicated, which is why he was unconscious and not functional.
"Based on that excuse, Will was transported by Acadian Ambulance to University Hospital and accompanied by deputies Chris Chambers and Justin Gutierrez.
"Will was diagnosed with a ruptured spleen which was caused by trauma.
"Will was in ICU for five days and under constant medical care.
"On or about 4 September 2012, Will was returned from University Hospital to St.
Bernard jail where he was booked and where he remained for a number of months until such time as the was once again confronted by the ADA [assistant district attorney] for St. Bernard Parish and a detective who said they have proof that he was guilty of the crimes charged but that they would recommend a sentence of ten years if he entered a guilty plea.
"Will said he would not plead guilty to anything he has not done and further challenged the detectives knowledge of the facts and the case.
"Will asked the ADA to consult the detectives who had personal knowledge of the case and he would be willing to meet with and discuss the investigation with the officers who had first-hand knowledge and you knew [sic] that the juvenile had pleaded guilty to the looting and was serving time for the crimes they now wanted to continue to charge him with.
"The ADA left the cell where Will and the officer were.
"The ADA returned shortly thereafter and told Will and the other officer, that the district attorney was dropping all the charges against Will. The charges against Ellzey were dropped only recently, as well."
Also named as defendants are an uncertain number of John and Jane Does.
The Doe defendants include "'several patrol deputies from field operations,' as well as natural persons including judicial officers of the court, the district attorney, the clerk of court, the sheriff's office and attorneys, who have not been identified by name, but who did conspire with co-defendants variously, and were the persons who violated the rights of complainants Will and Ellzey under the United States Constitution and ... federal laws, including but not limited to violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, et seq, and 18 U.S.C. 1961-1968 as well as those rights under the Constitution of the State of Louisiana," according to the complaint.
Will and Ellzey seek damages for false and malicious arrest, conspiracy, civil rights violations, constitutional violations, battery and negligence.
They are represented by Daniel G. Abel of Metairie.