GRAND ISLE, La. – It is a small island where the population explodes in the summer: Grand isle. About a thousand people actually live on the island, and there is a growing concern among some that outsiders are not getting the same treatment as the locals.
Grand Isle is a fisherman's paradise -- an island community where the ocean seems more active than the town much of the year. Brittney Metrejean moved to the Jefferson Parish island more than a year ago now.
“Doesn't matter what the real laws are, you know. It's like it's by itself, kind of like run off complete anarchy,” Metrejean said.
Last fall she was beaten so badly that she was in and out of consciousness. She even says her attackers sexually assaulted her.
“I woke up and my shorts were gone. And Cory's feet were holding my legs open. Desiree had me by the head. And Gabriel and Reynell were, you know, using their feet,” she said.
Metrejan says she believes the group of three women and one man ultimately beat her to a pulp, after a string of incidents between them all because she is an outsider, not from the island. She said she also feels like she is not getting justice for the same reason.
“I'm not an ‘outsider,’” she said. “I have a lot of family here. I'm not just some random outsider and even if I was I don't think that that should matter.”
To add insult to her injuries, Metrejean says Grand Isle police issued her, the victim, a ticket for fighting after she got out of the hospital.
“He (an officer) said when I called Euris (Dubois) about this," Metrjean said, "'I got screamed and ... out and was told, I don't feel like dealing with this… I'm not on the island. Write them all summons.'”
It is the same charge the police report shows was issued to one of four accused of beating her, Reynell Gautreaux, not the same story told by Grand Isle Police Chief Euris Dubois.
“When he (the officer) got there, he arrested four suspects,” Dubois.
Dubois says his officer handled the incident the same way they would any other. Bond records show Gautreaux and three other suspects -- Desiree Mike, Gabriel Showalter and Cory Thomas -- weren't arrested on second-degree battery charges until two days after the attack.
Metrejean says there was no crime scene secured and no real sexual assault exam was done at the hospital in Galliano.
“If that person is charged, then we have to send a police officer with that person to the hospital until that person is released from the doctor. So, was she charged with fighting? No. We didn't do it because after I seen her, she was pretty well beat up,” Dubois said.
Metrejan says that was after she had been released and went to the police station to make a statement the hospital nurses took just one picture.
Former Grand Isle Police Chief Roscoe Besson say he can't comment on how Brittany's case was handled, but he did say what his standard procedure was.
“I would've secured the scene immediately. I would have gotten the information from her whether she knew the perpetrators or whatever, and I would've contacted the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office,” Besson said.Brittany says she did speak with a JPSO investigator about the case, but she eventually said Grand Isle Police made the arrests and they were handling it.
The Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office charged all four defendants with one count of second-degree battery, just after Eyewitness News’ phone call asking about the case.
“The district attorney hasn't called us on any information yet, but like I said, they probably didn't start that case yet. I don't know,” Dubois said.
As with many battery crimes, the suspects and Metrejean had a history with each other. Metrejean alleges her attackers may have been high on drugs at the time.
Metrejan says she believes the animosity toward her is because the group considered her an outsider. Others, including the suspects, allege the situation escalated over drugs and jealousy over relationships. Suspect Corey Thomas' statement alleges Metrejean was the aggressor, but Metrejean says Thomas held her down while the women beat her in and out of consciousness.
In his retirement, Besson says he wouldn't be surprised if the bias against outsiders played a role in the attack, and that the problem is as old as the island itself.
“A lot of people come here to fish, and if you're at the wrong place at the wrong time, things happen,” Besson said.
Recently, someone wrote a letter to the editor of the Lafourche Gazette alleging that break-ins at fishing camps are not being investigated fully because the owners are only part-time residents, outsiders, an accusation Dubois strongly denies.
“I was very upset that like the police department is not responding to theft or break ins,” said
Now, Metrejean says she wanted to come forward to make sure justice is for all, even on Grand Isle.
“So much was taken from me. So much more than, you know, pride or anything like that. I mean it goes so much deeper,” Metrejean said.
WWL does not usually reveal the identities of sexual assault victims, but the alleged victim in this case wanted her story told. Prosecutors said they are still reviewing the sexual assault allegations. The allegations were never considered a part of the initial investigation, even though Brittany Metrejean made the complaint in her initial statement to Grand Isle police.