Attorneys for the family of Cameron Tillman and the five other teenagers inside an abandoned home when a Terrebonne Parish sheriff’s deputy shot and killed the 14-year-old have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in the year-old case.
Lead attorney Carol Powell Lexing, of Monroe, said the suit for damages is an effort by the Houma families involved to find justice after a grand jury declined to indict the deputy who fired shots in the boy’s death.
“They want them to be held accountable, because they don’t want other people to experience what they’ve experienced — for the community or anyone else to avoid having to go through the heartache and pain they’ve experienced in the death of Cameron,” Lexing said on Tuesday.
Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter did not immediately respond to a message left with his office on Tuesday afternoon. An attorney had not enrolled on his behalf or on behalf of the two deputies on the scene at the moment of Tillman’s death, Preston Norman — who shot Tillman — and Andrew Lewis.
Along with Lafayette attorney and Imani Temple pastor the Rev. John Milton, Florida attorney Benjamin Crump — who represented Trayvon Martin’s family — has signed on to represent Tillman’s family and the other teens in the suit.
Lexing and Crump also represent the family of Victor White III, the New Iberia 22-year-old who died of a single gunshot wound to his right chest while handcuffed in the back seat of an Iberia Parish sheriff’s deputy’s car.
In the suit, Tillman’s parents — along with his 19-year-old brother and four other minors in the house when he died on the evening of Sept. 23, 2014 — are seeking compensation for psychological damage, litigation fees and funeral expenses “in an amount sufficient to make an example of those defendants to deter future misconduct.”
Claims in the suit include excessive force, deprivation of rights and police negligence.
State Police led the investigation into the shooting. A grand jury in March declined to indict Norman in Tillman’s death.
According to the State Police report, Norman and Lewis were responding to a call that a group of young men had entered an abandoned and dilapidated home at 51 Kirkglen Loop, Houma.
While Lewis covered the front of the home, Norman entered through the garage and knocked, according to the account deputies gave State Police investigators. The deputies told investigators that Tillman swung the door open with a gun in his right hand.
The teens in the house with Tillman said he opened the door empty-handed, although they admit in interviews with investigators that they had two airsoft replica handguns inside the dwelling.
State Police investigators, who arrived on the scene about an hour and a half after the shooting, found one of the airsoft pistols in the living room and one near the garage door where Tillman died from four bullet wounds near his pelvis, heart, right shoulder and right side.
Lexing described Tillman as an honors student at Ellender High School and said the group of neighborhood friends used the vacant house as a “clubhouse,” picking up wireless signals there to play music and use social media apps on their cellphones.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.