About 20 people gathered Friday morning on the steps of the 24th Judicial District Courthouse in Gretna to protest the jailing of Tyshara Blouin, who they say was wrongly arrested for contradicting the official account of her boyfriend’s death at the hands of Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies in February.
Blouin, who had a court hearing scheduled inside the building Friday, was in the car with Eric Harris on Feb. 8 when deputies shot him in New Orleans’ Central City.
The deputies had chased Harris from the Oakwood Mall on the West Bank, where they say he had pointed a gun at a group of women, including a former girlfriend.
The chase ended in a crash, after which deputies said Harris tried to back his car over them.
Blouin, who gave a statement to police from the hospital after the crash, said publicly at the time that Harris had not threatened the officers. The 23-year-old was arrested a few days later and booked on charges related to the gun and to drugs police said were found in the car.
On Friday, community activist Malcolm Suber said Blouin’s arrest “is being used as a tool to try and force her to change her statement.”
He said Blouin maintains that she did not see Harris put the car in reverse and try to hit the deputies and that she should be allowed to recount the incident without fear of reprisal.
“They hit the pole, he turned around and asked her, ‘Are you OK?’ and the next thing was the shots,” Suber said.
“She is determined to tell the truth about what happened, and we think it’s wrong for Jefferson Parish to mistreat her,” Suber said.
“She has gone through enough tragedy already, losing the love of her life and the father of her baby son, and we don’t think she should have to go through this.”
The Sheriff’s Office has declined to comment on Blouin’s arrest.
“We presented the findings of our investigation to the District Attorney’s Office, and it’s in their hands now,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Col. John Fortunato said.
District Attorney Paul Connick’s office also would not comment, citing its policy of not publicly discussing open cases.
At the status hearing, prosecutors with Connick’s office said no decision has been made on whether to accept the charges against Blouin. The next hearing is set for Sept. 23.
Suber said Harris’ death was a tragedy that resulted from police unnecessarily escalating a situation.
“In our opinion, Eric didn’t have to die that night,” he said.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.