NEW ORLEANS - The use of Tasers against two brothers in Algiers last year by Jefferson Parish deputies – a confrontation partially caught on a cell phone video – is now the subject of a federal civil rights lawsuit.
Casey and Sean Warren filed the suit last week against Sheriff Newell Normand and seven deputies in connection with the Sept. 9 police stop that resulted in both men being hit with Tasers multiple times.
In the lawsuit, the brothers claim they were victims of a host of civil rights violations, including excessive force, unlawful arrest and improper seizure. The lawsuit also notes that the deputies were outside of their jurisdiction when they followed Casey Warren to his home in Algiers.
The case stemmed from an attempted traffic stop in which one of the deputies, wearing plainclothes and driving an unmarked car, stopped Casey Warren, 36, as he was driving across the Crescent City Connection with three passengers.
Warren said he pulled over, but when the deputy pulled a gun without showing any law enforcement credentials, Warren said he drove to his home on Hudson Place.
That’s where Warren said he was attacked without provocation by five of the deputies. He said he was punched, tackled and then Tased even though he offered no resistance to the deputies’ demands.
A portion of take-down was videotaped by his brother Sean with a cell phone. The shaky video appears to show a handcuffed Casey Warren forcefully being led by deputies to a patrol car, when the video ends abruptly.
Sean Warren, 40, said he was taping the scene when deputies turned to him, snatching his phone and stomping on it before turning the Tasers on him. In their lawsuit, Casey Warren alleges being Tased three times, while Sean Warren alleges being hit twice.
Attorneys for the men, Frank DeSalvo and Shannon Bourgeois, said they are eager to begin the discovery process of obtaining evidence in the lawsuit to fill in the blanks after where the cell phone video was cut off.
In particular, the attorneys are seeking video from cameras mounted on the Tasers to support their claims. Most “electrical control devices,” as they are called, are equipped with cameras that automatically record as the devices are being used.
“It’s clear to us that when we get these Taser records, these videos from the Taser, it’s going to blow up in their face,” DeSalvo said. “Why else would the cops then take away this guy’s telephone he was taping with and throw it on the ground and stomp it?”
“The screen of the cell phone had been smashed and a large boot print was visible on the face of the phone,” the lawsuit states.
Bourgeois said the deputies did not have the jurisdiction to confront the brothers given their location in Algiers, far from the Jefferson Parish line.
“They came into Orleans Parish and Tased two citizens who had no reason to be Tased. They were not combative. Nor were they attempting to evade arrest of resist arrest in any way,” Bourgeois said.
A New Orleans police report of the confrontation gives the brothers’ account of being beaten and Tased multiple times.
The Jefferson Parish police report, however, gives a different picture. According to Bourgeois, the report states that the brothers detained and handcuffed after they became belligerent, but the narrative makes no mention of the use of Tasers.
“Not only is (the report) not substantiated by what’s in the New Orleans Police Department police report, it’s nonsensical,” Bourgeois said. “It could not have occurred the way it is depicted in that report.”
While neither brother was arrested that night, Casey Warren was given citations the next day for reckless operation of a vehicle and flight from an officer. But Jefferson Parish court records show that formal charges on those traffic tickets were never lodged.
Col. John Fortunato, spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, said Normand is out of town and unavailable for comment on the lawsuit.
But last year, following a preliminary review shortly after the confrontation, Normand said, “I don’t have any information available to me at this time to suggest that our officers did anything unethical or illegal or contrary to the law at this time.”
At the time, Normand defended his deputies’ decision to go into Orleans Parish as “good police work.”
In their lawsuit, the Warrens asked for unspecified damages.