The sister of a LaPlace man who died in July after being subdued with a Taser by a St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
The nine-page lawsuit, filed this week in 40th Judicial District Court in Edgard, alleges that Ennis Labaux, 37, was shocked with a Taser multiple times for a total of 37 seconds in less than one minute while other officers placed handcuffs and then leg restraints on him.
Authorities were called to a home in the 200 block of Belle Terre Boulevard in LaPlace in the early morning of July 5 in response to a report of a family disturbance. Labaux had returned hours earlier from a hospital and was having trouble breathing. A scuffle broke out, and Labaux cut his niece with a knife, according to the lawsuit.
When officers arrived, Labaux resisted arrest, and several officers worked to restrain him. The suit contends that 50,000 volts of electricity were applied from the Taser, striking Labaux near his heart. It argues that the deputy who tased him, Anthony Preyan, “failed to take the necessary precautions as recommended by Taser in light of the placement of the prongs, thus constituting negligence.”
Preyan and St. John Sheriff Mike Tregre are both listed as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Alisha Labaux.
“A reasonable and prudent deputy under the circumstances would have known that defendant Preyan’s conduct was only serving to torture” Ennis Labaux, the lawsuit contends.
After he was subdued, the lawsuit contends, Labaux was “left face down in the grass, where he soon thereafter lost consciousness.” Emergency medical personnel arrived on the scene and found that he was not breathing. Attempts to revive him failed.
The lawsuit, which seeks a jury trial, charges that the leg restraint used on Labaux has disappeared and was not used in the proper way to restrain him.
It makes a litany of charges against the sheriff, contending that he and his staff failed to adequately investigate the incident, that the sheriff did not adequately train his deputies on using the leg restraints or the Taser, and that Tregre did not adequately supervise or discipline Preyan.
State Police Troop B spokeswoman Melissa Matey said this week that State Police investigators have finished their review of the incident and that their findings were recently turned over to the district attorney. Matey said the case was scheduled to be presented to a grand jury this week, but was postponed. The lawsuit was filed by Tregg Wilson, a lawyer who was once Tregre’s chief deputy. This marks the third lawsuit that Wilson has filed against his former boss in recent years.
Earlier this year, he sued Tregre on behalf of a 30-year-old man who has accused Tregre’s deputies of falsely arresting him and using excessive force during an incident that left him with nerve damage in his hand, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit. That case is set for trial in April.
Wilson himself filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit against Tregre in 2013, alleging that Tregre’s interrogation rooms were rigged with hidden cameras. Tregre, who took office in July 2012, said the equipment had been installed by his predecessor and that he was unaware it was there until shortly before Wilson filed his suit.
Tregre has said the systems have been removed. Wilson contended in his lawsuit that he was fired as retaliation for speaking out against the cameras. A subsequent State Police investigation concluded the cameras did not necessarily violate state law, though investigators said they could well have been used improperly.
In September, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled in favor of Tregre, dismissing the lawsuit.
Tregre declined to comment on the Labaux lawsuit, citing a policy against discussing pending litigation. He did say, though, that Wilson was in charge of developing his office’s policy for using Tasers and that he left the department before the task was completed.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.