It’s been a painful year since Kevin Bajoie died after Baton Rouge police used stun guns to subdue the Zachary man, his father said Tuesday, adding that he believes his 32-year-old son would still be alive if officers had handled the situation in Scotlandville differently.
Despite a coroner’s finding to the contrary, Bajoie’s parents alleged in a lawsuit filed late Monday that the stun gun blasts contributed to, hastened or caused his death on June 20.
“My son was alive when the police got there. It’s just sad the amount of aggression that was delivered on him when he needed aid,” Lawrence Bajoie said of his 150-pound son, whom he described as a quiet, humble, meek and easygoing homebody who had a bachelor’s degree in information technology and loved to read.
“I just want all the truth to be told and to get some closure, so no other family has to experience this,” he added.
In their suit against the Baton Rouge Police Department and several officers, Lawrence and Mabel Bajoie claim their son had been involved in a prior altercation and was unconscious and unarmed, wearing only boxer shorts and lying face down on the ground on Avenue C when officers arrived on the scene.
“Although Mr. Bajoie initially appeared to attempt to rise up from the ground, he turned and fell face down again, unconscious,” the suit states. “Mr. Bajoie ... did not present a danger to officer safety.”
Nevertheless, the suit alleges, two police officers fired stun guns into Bajoie’s back and also repeatedly kicked and punched him.
Two other officers were in a position to stop the “imposition of excessive force and battery” but did nothing, the suit contends.
Sgt. Don Coppola, a Baton Rouge police spokesman, and Kim Brooks, a senior special assistant parish attorney and legal adviser to the Police Department, both declined comment Tuesday on the suit filed in Baton Rouge state court.
“Tasers are not toys. They are dangerous weapons that can have dangerous consequences,” said lawyer Jill Craft, who represents Lawrence and Mabel Bajoie.
Coppola previously has given an account of the 2015 events that stand in stark contrast to the suit’s allegations.
As the first responding officer approached him, Bajoie — who was lying on his back — unexpectedly jumped up and attempted to attack the officer, Coppola said last June in a news release.
“After observing the unprovoked, aggressive, erratic behavior displayed by Bajoie, two different responding officers invoked less than lethal force by using their Tasers,” he wrote.
Bajoie continued to resist after one officer used his stun gun, Coppola said, so a second officer shot Bajoie with a stun gun.
Bajoie died later that day at a local hospital.
East Baton Rouge Parish’s coroner ruled last fall that Bajoie’s death was an accident due to drug intoxication after he ingested methamphetamine, amphetamine and synthetic marijuana.
“I don’t give a damn if he was full of Clorox bleach and Pepto-Bismol. That ain’t no reason to kill him,” Lawrence Bajoie said Tuesday. “They finished him off.”
Dr. William “Beau” Clark, the coroner, also stated last year that an autopsy on Bajoie’s body showed skin wounds “consistent with the deployment of an electromuscular disruption device” and “blunt force injuries to the head.”
Clark said the stun gun wounds were from electrodes that shoot from the device and not from direct contact between the body of the stun gun and the skin.
Nothing in Bajoie’s autopsy or medical history indicated he suffered from pre-existing health problems that would have contributed to his death, Clark added.
Lawrence Bajoie, who said witnesses have been reluctant to come forward to this point, is asking for the public’s help in resolving why his son’s life was cut short.
“We haven’t been the same since. We miss him. He was a fixture at the house,” Bajoie said. “His death was violent and painful, and it didn’t have to happen.”
The lawsuit, which seeks monetary damages, has been assigned to state District Judge Don Johnson.