NEW ORLEANS – Sheriff’s deputies punched a Black man so brutally while booking him into a north Louisiana jail two years ago that they broke his nose and left eye socket, civil libertarians said in challenging Louisiana's one-year statute of limitations on lawsuits alleging police abuse.
Jarius Brown, who had been arrested by a state trooper on a stolen vehicle charge in 2019, was so traumatized by the unprovoked attack that he dared not speak to the ACLU of Louisiana until recently, legal director Nora Ahmed said in an interview Tuesday.
The jailhouse beating took place in the DeSoto Parish seat of Mansfield, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Shreveport, on Sept. 27, 2019. The ACLU is asking a judge to find Louisiana's one-year time limit unconstitutional so the lawsuit filed Friday can proceed. Only Louisiana , Kentucky and Tennessee allow so little time to sue police, Ahmed said.
Brown's account of the beating “is consistent with an extensive history of violence and police brutality committed by members of Louisiana law enforcement,” the ACLU official said in a news release. ”That conduct has unfortunately been present for decades and has been implicitly endorsed by Louisiana State Police troopers and officials — the very force that initiated Mr. Brown’s arrest."
The lawsuit cited an article in a series of Associated Press reports on a decade-long pattern of state police hiding videos and other information about violence by troopers.
Capt. Nick Manale, head of state police public affairs, said the agency’s legal staff had not received the lawsuit but will review it when it arrives. “From the information you provided, it appears that the Trooper is only alleged to have been involved in the arrest and not the use of force incident,” he wrote in an email.
The suit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Shreveport against former DeSoto Parish deputy Javarrea Pouncy and two unidentified officers — a second deputy and the state trooper who arrested Brown.
The sheriff's office declined to respond in detail to the lawsuit.
“This matter has been investigated both internally and by the Louisiana State Police. The matter is now in litigation, therefore, our office will have no further comments to provide at this time,” Deputy Mark Pierce, a sheriff's office spokesman, said in an email Tuesday.
State police had investigated at the sheriff’s office’s request, Manale said Wednesday. He said video from a state trooper's body camera was provided to the district attorney’s office as part of the original charge.
KSLA-TV reported in July 2020 about the video, which shows Brown straining to answer basic questions while apparently trying to remain conscious after the beating. The recording shows Brown's face bruised, his left eye swollen shut and bloody saliva stringing from his mouth.
Brown had just been processed and was wearing inmate's clothing when he was brought before the officer, the station reported. On camera, the officer asks a deputy, "What happened to him? He resisted?” and the deputy nods yes.
Pouncy did not respond to a call or a text to two phone numbers identified in an online database as possibly his. He no longer works for the sheriff's office or for the Coushatta Police Department, where KSLA reported he was working a year ago. The lawsuit said Pouncy left the sheriff’s office after coming under investigation.
Records in the DeSoto Parish District Attorney's Office indicate that the matter was sent there as a malfeasance case which state police investigated, said Shawn Parker, an investigator for Charles Adams, who took office in January.
Although Brown can be heard in the video asking to go to a hospital, he was not taken to one until another deputy saw his condition, according to the ACLU. It said the deputies accused of beating him were with him at the hospital during treatment for a broken nose, a broken bone around his left eye and abrasions on his left eyelid, among other things.
Brown's complaint is just one of 400 the organization has received alleging racist policing in Louisiana, eight of them in DeSoto Parish, the ACLU said.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected other challenges to Louisiana's one-year statute of limitations, Ahmed said. However, she said, she believes hers is the first challenge to bring up arguments raised in recent articles by legal scholars.
The lawsuit is the 22nd in the ACLU of Louisiana's “Justice Lab” campaign to expose and litigate against police brutality and racism, the organization said.
AP news researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.