A man who claims he was beaten by Jefferson Parish deputies after a traffic stop last year has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Sheriff Newell Normand.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court, seeks $4 million in damages from Normand and a trio of plainclothes detectives accused of using excessive force in their arrest of 38-year-old Yimlah Sankofa.
The suit claims the Sheriff’s Office has made it a routine practice “to assault, abuse and commit battery on persons without just cause.”
“Due to the excess force used by the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s officers, Mr. Sankofa incurred serious, permanent damages and injuries,” the lawsuit says.
A Sheriff’s Office spokesman said Normand was unavailable Tuesday to comment on the allegations.
The lawsuit stems from a May 19, 2014, traffic stop in Marrero, when a team of deputies patrolling the Mount Kennedy neighborhood pulled Sankofa over for speeding. Sankofa had been driving about 50 mph in a 35-mph zone and changing lanes without signaling, according to an arrest report.
Sankofa pulled into the parking lot of a convenience store at Ames Boulevard and Mount Kennedy Drive. The detectives — George Kister, John Wiebelt and William Whittington — got out of their vehicle and approached Sankofa’s 2002 Infiniti G20.
The lawsuit claims the deputies “pulled Mr. Sankofa out of his vehicle and started beating him up without warning, provocation nor justification.”
The arrest report, however, says Sankofa refused to get out of his car and “immediately became verbally aggressive.”
“If you touch me, it’s on,” Sankofa told the deputies, according to the arrest report.
The traffic stop then devolved into what the arrest report describes as a “violent struggle.”
According to the arrest report, two of the detectives opened the driver’s side door. Sankofa tried to close it, the report says, striking one of the deputies in the leg.
Another deputy — it’s unclear which one because the Sheriff’s Office redacted the names of the detectives from the arrest report — entered the car on the passenger side and took the key out of the ignition. Sankofa swung a closed fist at that deputy, the report says, striking him in the biceps.
“Several investigators were able to extract Sankofa from the Infiniti as he began to resist,” the arrest report says. Once outside the vehicle, Sankofa took a “fighting stance, swinging his arms wildly,” the report says.
At that point, according to the report, the detectives “began to utilize defensive counterstrikes to Mr. Sankofa’s head and body.”
“It took numerous investigators to overcome Sankofa’s aggression,” the report says, and “after a substantial struggle (he) was placed into a prone position and restrained via the aid of rear double-locked handcuffs.”
While the lawsuit claims Sankofa sustained serious injuries, the arrest report mentions only a laceration to the right eye lid and nose. Sankofa, after receiving medical treatment, was booked on felony and misdemeanor counts of battery on a police officer and resisting police by force.
Prosecutors ultimately pursued just one count of misdemeanor battery on a police officer. Judge John Molaison of the 24th Judicial District convicted Sankofa after a bench trial in December and ordered him to serve 15 days of home incarceration.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.