The mother of a high school student repeatedly punched in the face last month by a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy has filed a civil rights lawsuit, accusing Sheriff Newell Normand of promoting a culture in which deputies are rewarded for using excessive force.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, seeks more than $5 million in damages against Normand and Detective Nicholas Breaux, the undercover deputy seen on a cellphone video delivering four right hooks to the face of 17-year-old Brady Becker. Breaux’s partner, Cory Porche, is also named as a defendant, accused of watching the assault without intervening.
The lawsuit stems from a controversial arrest that happened Feb. 13 in the parking garage of the Lakeside Shopping Center. Becker, a student-athlete at St. Charles Catholic High School in LaPlace, had gathered with a large group of friends to watch the Krewe of Centurions parade roll in Metairie when they encountered Breaux and Porche, who had been assigned to an undercover detail targeting underage drinking and drug use.
Becker and Normand have offered sharply conflicting versions of what occurred in the parking garage and who is to blame for the incident, which one of Becker’s friends filmed on his cellphone. Footage of the arrest, which has been viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube, shows Breaux, a mixed martial arts fighter, struggling with Becker as he sought to take the youth into custody. The clip shows only a brief portion of the arrest.
Breaux can be seen subduing Becker and, at one point, punching him in the face, a tactic that raised questions about whether Breaux followed Sheriff’s Office protocol.
The FBI has begun a civil rights inquiry into the arrest, and the Sheriff’s Office also opened an internal investigation.
Normand has placed the blame squarely on Becker, saying he would have kneed the teenager in the groin or stomach if he had been in Breaux’s shoes. The sheriff has said Becker was drunk after the parade and instigated the arrest by cursing at the deputies and pushing Breaux.
The teen can be seen on the cellphone video grasping at Breaux’s neck area. The lawsuit describes these movements as Becker “frantically attempting to shield and protect himself from defendant Breaux’s blows.”
Breaux, however, wrote in his report that he feared the youth was attempting to strangle him.
“We train our folks how to defend themselves,” Normand said at a news conference earlier this month. “I think Mr. Becker needs to learn to keep his hands to himself and maybe stay off the alcohol. That might help everybody.”
Becker was booked on four counts, including inciting a riot and battery of a police officer. He was taken to the hospital after his arrest with two black eyes and other facial injuries.
The lawsuit filed Thursday says he has since suffered headaches and nightmares. His attorney, David Belfield, has said Becker could have long-term damage to his eye.
“The injuries (Becker) sustained impede his ability to complete his academic work and to participate in athletics,” the suit claims.
The lawsuit refers to a previous incident in which Breaux was accused of using excessive force on an inmate when he was an officer at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center. It claims that Normand “condones and ratifies” excessive force, in part because Breaux has “ascended the ranks” at the Sheriff’s Office.
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