NEW ORLEANS (CN) - New Orleans police officers shot a man to death during a traffic stop and shot his brother in the leg and stomped on his head, the family claims in court.
Earl Sipp III and Earl Sipp Jr., sued former New Orleans police Officer Jason Giroir, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas, New Orleans and its Police Department, in Federal Court. The father and son sued on their own behalf and for their late brother and son, Justin Sipp. They claim Chief Serpas lied about the killing to try to justify the unjustifiable.
"Jason Giroir has a history of racial profiling and while acting under the color of law attacking and harming women and men in our African-American community," the complaint states. "He was eventually suspended because of racist comments he posted online after the murder of Florida youth Trayvon Martin."
The Sipps claim that the New Orleans Police Department failed to fire or discipline Giroir despite his history of racial profiling and violence.
"On 4 April 2006, Giroir attacked Mrs. Jonie Pratt, 'drew his gun on her ... pulled her out of her car ... cursed her and assaulted her physically by punching her, pulling her hair and spraying her with pepper spray ...' acts which violated both police procedure and her civil rights," the complaint states. (Ellipses in complaint, which cites the previous federal lawsuit Pratt filed against Giroir.)
In this case, the Sipps claim, Giroir, who was off-duty, followed and stopped Earl Sipp III as he was driving his brother Justin to work, and going to work himself, at 5 a.m. on March 1, 2012.
Giroir checked Earl Sipp's license and insurance, told him his license was suspended, asked him to step out of the car, and handcuffed him, according to the complaint.
Earl claims that while Giroir was handcuffing him, another police car arrived, and two officers pulled his brother out of the car by the arms.
According to the complaint: "Earl Sipp was still standing handcuffed in the back of the car and witnessed what was being done to his brother Justin.
"While the officers had Justin Sipp by both arms, Earl Sipp heard gunshots.
"Earl Sipp and the other witnesses have already testified that there were no shots fired until at least ten minutes after Giroir first turned on his lights after Earl Sipp had pulled over on the side of North Bernadotte, to let his brother out of the car to go to work.
"Hearing the gun fire, Earl Sipp began to move slowly - although still handcuffed - to the opposite side of North Bernadotte Street, in the direction of the sidewalk [closest to the Burger King parking lot].
"While handcuffed and moving toward the sidewalk, Earl Sipp was shot in the leg.
"Earl Sipp ended up on the grass next to the sidewalk at which time officer Doe I or II or III came up to him and stomped his foot onto Earl Sipp's head.
"The officer kept his foot on Earl Sipp's head for some time.
"Having been shot in the leg and kicked and stomped in the head, Earl Sipp was no longer coherent and did not become so until he arrived later at University Hospital Emergency Room.
"Earl Sipp did see his brother lying on the ground during this time, prior to becoming incoherent." (Brackets in complaint).
Sipp claims the officers took him out of the hospital to take statements from him while the bullet was still in his leg. Then, he claims, police tried to cover up the incident and come up with a probable cause for the traffic stop.
"At a press conference on March 1, Superintendent Serpas stated publicly that Justin Sipp had got out of the car with his guns blazing, firing at the officers who had arrived on the scene," the complaint states.
"For several weeks the NOPD and its spokespersons did variations on this public statement in an attempt to make it appear that Justin Sipp had initiated the confrontation and had started a gun fight upon getting out of the car.
"Within days independent investigators, including those of the press, knew that the Serpas version of the initial encounter was fabricated, as four witnesses had already stated that there were no shots fired until five or ten minutes after these eyewitnesses saw the initial stop and the initial encounters between the NOPD officers and each of the Sipps."
The Sipps claim the police denied them access to medical records, ballistic evidence, and the officers' history. They also refused to return Earl Sipp's car and his brother's belongings.
"Despite statements of probable cause fabricated by Giroir and expanded upon by the NOPD, Giroir stopped the Sipp brothers as part of his continuing practice of racially profiling young African-American men," the family says in the complaint. "Had Giroir not done so, Justin Sipp would be alive and neither Earl Sipp nor the other officers would have been injured."
Earl Sipp says the police department tried to prosecute him for driving with a suspended license, but the court dismissed the charges after the officers failed to appear.
The Sipps seek punitive damages for constitutional violations, conspiracy, negligence, false arrest, assault, battery, extortion, and wrongful death, and want access to police evidence.
They are represented by Daniel Abel of Metairie.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.