NEW ORLEANS - A cab driver filed a formal complaint with the New Orleans Police Department Monday against a city taxicab inspector, after video surfaced of the cab driver getting pepper sprayed and handcuffed by the inspector.
Last week, the City Attorney’s Office handed over the hotel surveillance video of the incident that took place back in October of 2013.
Taxicab driver Emmanuel Esterlin said he had just pulled up behind some other illegally parked taxicabs on Dauphine Street in the French Quarter when taxi inspector Ronnie Blake asked him for his taxi permit and his driver’s license.
Esterlin, a cab driver and a business student at Delgado, had just arrived and said he was trying to ask Blake to forgive the indiscretion of parking illegally when Blake ordered him out of the car. Esterlin said Blake tried to handcuff him and was confrontational so he walked down the street. The video then shows a scuffle, Blake using pepper spray on Esterlin and Esterlin forced to the ground handcuffed face down on the sidewalk.
"I've bene working in this city for ten years now. I don't deserve this and what we need now is justice," Esterlin said Monday.
Esterlin was initially accused of simple battery, with the NOPD citation reading he “punched Blake in the left eye.” A spokeswoman for the Landrieu Administration said last week that although they believe Esterlin did punch Blake, the situation was handled inappropriately.
The City Attorney declined to prosecute Esterlin on the battery charge last week at the same time that they released the video to his attorney, Tom Shlossman.
Monday, Shlossman traveled to the 8th District Police Station in the French Quarter with Esterlin to file a formal, criminal complaint against Blake.
“Mr. Esterlin was the victim of an aggravated battery. The perpetrator, Mr. Ronnie Blake, has neither been charged nor has he been charged with a crime and we're here today to see that justice is served,” Shlossman said.
A handful of fellow cab drivers also gathered in the rain outside the Royal Street station to show their solidarity for Esterlin.
Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux said last week that his office had received more than a dozen complaints about both Blake and another taxi inspector, Wilton Joiner.
Blake was suspended by the Landrieu administration and placed under investigation after news surfaced of Joiner’s altercation with a walking tour guide in the French Quarter.
Tour guide Wendy Bosma was initially charged with battery for that altercation, but after further investigation, New Orleans Police issued a warrant for Joiner on a battery charge. That case, and his administrative investigation, is still pending.
Monday a spokeswoman for the NOPD issued a statement saying 8th District detectives are continuing to consult with the City Attorney and the Office of Inspector General about the Blake case, and wouldn’t say whether detectives will arrest Blake based on the video.
Quatrevaux is conducting an administrative investigation into the taxicab bureau at the request of the mayor, including the role the Deputy Director of the Office of Safety and Permits, Malachi Hull, played in both incidents.