PLAQUEMINES PARISH, La. — The family, friends and defense attorney of the 18-year-old who authorities say crashed his ATV into a Plaquemines Parish sheriff’s deputy, held a press conference Monday to protest the teen’s continued incarceration on charges of second-degree aggravated battery and aggravated flight from an officer.
The attorney for Reginald Hamilton said his client should not face any charges other than traffic violations, and said dash cam video and radio communication between deputies proves his innocence. The attorney, Ryan Thompson, said the evidence proves that the deputies escalated the situation with unnecessary and aggressive tactics.
Hamilton, 18, was driving his ATV next to his friend, Kody Blanchard, on Woodland Highway at around 2:30 a.m. on May 31, when deputies received a report of reckless driving. When deputies got close to the ATVs, the teens fled.
A dash cam video shows deputies ramming into the rear of the ATVs. One of the deputies can be heard over the radio stating, “I’ll f***ing bump you, brah” followed by “smoke him, smoke him.”
As the teens made it halfway up the Woodland Bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway, Deputy Edmund Fisher got out of his car to flag down Hamilton on the ATV when, according to Sheriff Jerry Turlich, Hamilton intentionally rammed his ATV into him.
But Hamilton’s family says the video evidence shows the incident didn’t unfold the way Turlich says it did.
Halfway up the Woodland Bridge, Lt. Fisher got out of the car to lay spike strips on the right side of the road to slow down Hamilton’s ATV. When Fisher realized Hamilton was coming up on the left side of the road, the video appears to show him extending his leg in front of the ATV. His leg was later amputated.
“The officer placed himself in harm’s way, not the other way around,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt also notes that a deputy was heard on a radio recording stating that Fisher jumped out of the car and into the path of the ATV.
“The only thing he is guilty of is driving while black in Plaquemines Parish,” Wyatt said.
Hamilton was ejected from his vehicle and was unconscious from a head injury at the scene. He remained in a hospital for several days before he recovered and booked into Plaquemines Parish Prison.
While Hamilton was on the ground after the collision, Wyatt says he was handcuffed despite being unresponsive. She said deputies forced him to his feet even though he was “out of it” and did not call for an ambulance until he had a seizure a few minutes later.
Thompson said Hamilton has no criminal history and that his civil rights were violated. He said his client may have been the victim of racial profiling.
“Let’s not act like Plaquemines parish isn’t a sundown parish” Thompson said. “There’s a pattern that targets black people.”
Thompson and Wyatt also debunked claims that it was a “gang” of teens speeding on stolen ATVs, saying that it was only two teens, not “a gang,” and that they owned the vehicles.
“If Reginald Hamilton was an 18-year-old white kid, we would not be standing here” Wyatt said. “We don’t want any child suffering at the hands of people we pay our taxes to.”
Wyatt said that Hamilton's ATV driving skills probably saved his life as well as the deputy’s.
His mother, Schnell Clark, stood next to Thompson and Wyatt at the conference but struggled to answer questions through the tears.
They were joined at the press briefing by about 20 protestors – most of them family members of the two teens – holding signs that say “Free our uncle,” and “What really happened to Reginald Jr.?”
The Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office issued a short statement. "As this case is still in the adjudication process, PPSO will not be making any additional comments. As previously directed, please contact the Plaquemines Parish District Attorney's Office for any additional inquiries regarding this case."