(CN) – A Louisiana deputy sheriff who shot a man to death had a “documented history of unprovoked violence,” and the Livingston Parish Sheriff should have known it because of the violent nature of the deputy’s MySpace page, the family of the late Gerald Rice claims in Federal Court.
In the months before the shooting, Rice’s family says their father’s killer, Livingston Parish Deputy Sheriff Joel Arnold, had brutalized a 70 year-old cancer patient. The family says that Sheriff Willie Graves should not have dispatched Arnold to Rice’s home.
On Jan. 27, 2010, someone “called 911 to report that Gerald Rice was at his home with a gun and in a suicidal state of mind,” according to the complaint in Livingston Parish Court, in Livingston, La.
Arnold and two other deputies arrived at Rice’s house, and another deputy and a detective came soon after, the family says.
The officers found Rice in the garage “sitting alone inside his truck holding a gun,” the family says. “While one deputy went to get a Taser, Arnold and another deputy attempted to get into the garage from the kitchen annexed to it by way of a short hallway,” according to the complaint.
The family says their father told the deputies he was not going to hurt himself and asked them to leave several times, but they refused to go.
In the garage, Rice fired his gun at the wall “away from both himself and the deputies who were in Rice’s kitchen behind the closed hallway door,” the complaint states. The deputies checked Rice to make sure that he had not hurt himself.
Rice then walked toward his kitchen to get a beer, and “Arnold fired four shots from his 40 caliber Glock pistol, hitting Rice three times in the chest,” the family says. They say none of the other officers fired their guns.
“At the time he killed Rice, Arnold maintained a public Internet page on MySpace, at which he included a photograph of a nameless, amoral, gunslinger played by Clint Eastwood, above the caption ‘How I feel most of the time!!!!'”
The complaint continues: “Several months before killing Rice, Arnold battered, brutalized, falsely arrested, and maliciously prosecuted Frank Livermore, a 70 year-old cancer patient, and turned Livermore’s property over to a career criminal and habitual drug user.”
Rice was not killed by all five officers on the scene, but by “one deputy with a documented history of unprovoked violence with the emotional state – ‘most of the time!!!!’ – of a trigger-happy anti-hero of 1960s cinema,” the family says.
“(I)n confronting and killing Rice, Arnold and Grave’s other deputies violated every guideline, policy, and procedure of crisis negotiation established by
The National Council of Negotiation Associations,” the family claims.
After Arnold killed Rice, the family filed a life insurance claim with ReliaStar, which rejected it, based upon the police report. ReliaStar unfairly determined that Rice had “put himself in a position in which he should have known that serious injury or death could occur as a result of his actions,” the family says.
Brandon Rice, Gerald’s son, says ReliaStar did not question him though he listened to the discussion between his father and the officers, and heard Arnold shoot his father.
The family demands damages from Arnold and Graves, for wrongful death, and $179,000 in death benefits from ReliaStar.The Rices are represented by Kearney Loughlin of New Orleans