The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office has identified four inmates involved in a jailhouse melee that left a teenager unconscious and with a fractured eye socket. Deputies needed several minutes to intervene in the March 30 fracas.
The attack highlighted the concerns of corrections experts and inmate advocates who have warned in recent months that the newly opened Orleans Justice Center is dangerously understaffed.
It took a while to piece together what happened using surveillance footage, a Sheriff’s Office report shows.
All four of the inmates, including the youth who lost consciousness, are facing new charges in connection with the fight. However, investigators took so long to identify the suspects that one of them was since released from jail and is at large.
The frequent violence inside the new jail prompted the U.S. Justice Department and the MacArthur Justice Center, a law firm that represents the inmates, to ask a federal judge last month to place the jail in federal receivership. The move would strip Sheriff Marlin Gusman of his core duties of running the lockup.
The request for receivership is the subject of an extraordinary hearing in federal court that is scheduled to resume Monday. At its end, U.S. District Judge Lance Africk will decide whether to appoint an outside administrator, or receiver, to take over day-to-day operations at the jail.
Gusman has vehemently opposed the effort, insisting he has made strides toward implementing a series of court-ordered jail reforms.
The March 30 fight offers a vivid illustration of the often chaotic conditions inside the Orleans Justice Center. An investigator assigned to review the attack noted in his report that he was not even made aware of the incident until five days after the fact.
Surveillance footage revealed that inmate Jaquan Brown, who was 16 at the time, was punched and kicked inside a cell by fellow inmates. Brown was awaiting trial on armed robbery charges.
Parts of the fight happened outside the view of the jail’s surveillance cameras, but the Sheriff’s Office report says the assailants could be seen “kicking the inmate on the ground.” There is no mention in the report of deputies attempting to intervene at this point.
The inmates then left the cell but twice returned to attack Brown “in the same method,” the report says. Brown was later struck in the head by another inmate as he tried to make a phone call.
At some point, surveillance footage shows Brown yelling at a deputy and pointing “to an open cell, as if he were telling (an unnamed assailant) to enter the cell so they could fight,” the report says.
Another fight ensued in the cell, and the surveillance footage shows Brown “unconscious on the floor,” the report says.
Deputies rebooked Brown on simple assault, accusing him of attempting to punch one of his assailants as he walked down a set of stairs.
Dontrell Lafayette, Rendell Brown and Rashaun Carr all face new counts of second-degree battery in Brown’s beating. Carr remained at large late Tuesday.
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