New Orleans man claims Gretna police attacked him while handcuffed _lowres

Eli Mathins

A New Orleans man arrested on the West Bank last year has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Gretna, claiming a police officer struck him in the face while he was handcuffed at the Gretna Police Department.

The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court, claims the officer, Ashton Gibbs, attacked 27-year-old Eli Mathins after an argument over a .40-caliber handgun that Gretna police said they found in Mathins’ car after a traffic stop.

While holding the firearm, the lawsuit claims, Gibbs approached Mathins inside the Fifth Street police station and said, “Look what we found.”

The lawsuit says the officer “suddenly and unexpectedly struck Mathins in the face,” fracturing his cheekbone. A booking photograph from the Aug. 7, 2014, arrest shows Mathins with a black eye.

“Mathins was handcuffed and did not in any way behave in a physically aggressive manner toward Gibbs any time while in custody,” the lawsuit states. “Any reasonably well-trained law enforcement officer would have known that the degree of force used by Gibbs was excessive.”

In addition to Gibbs, the lawsuit names as defendants Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson and Deputy Police Chief Anthony Christiana Jr., both of whom Mathins accuses of turning a blind eye to claims of excessive force.

Christiana said the department cannot comment on pending litigation.

Mathins, also known as “Tookie,” was pulled over on Lapalco Boulevard for changing lanes without using a turn signal and for driving with “extremely dark window tint” on his Chevrolet Impala, according to a police report.

The arresting officer, Brad Cheramie, said in his report that he spotted two plastic bags in Mathins’ vehicle containing 6 grams of heroin, an amount Cheramie described as “significantly more than the typical user amount of .10 grams.”

Mathins also was found to be carrying $3,144 and a bag of marijuana, the report said. Police said they found a loaded handgun during a search of the vehicle.

Mathins was booked on several drug and firearms counts. He was sentenced to four years in state prison last month after pleading guilty to reduced charges of possession of heroin and attempted possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

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