A federal judge this week dismissed a lawsuit filed against the city of Kenner by the family of a suspected car thief who was fatally shot by police.
The named defendants — including Kenner’s mayor and police chief — had not been served with the lawsuit, even though it was filed several months ago. And the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Lionel “Lon” Burns, failed to show up for a status hearing last week in U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle’s courtroom in New Orleans.
Lemelle tossed the suit out Monday, though he did so “without prejudice,” meaning the plaintiffs are free to file it again later.
In an interview Tuesday, Burns said his clients plan to continue pursuing the case and might file a motion asking Lemelle to reverse his decision as early as Wednesday.
The lawsuit alleged that Kenner police used excessive force and violated the civil rights of 24-year-old Don White when he was fatally wounded during a Nov. 8, 2013, incident. The plaintiffs asked for compensation, including $9,216 in funeral expenses, as well as punitive damages.
Kenner police plan to argue that a one-year statute of limitations applying to the case has lapsed if it is refiled, lawyer Philip Boudousque said.
“Our belief is the case has proscribed,” Boudousque said. “If that is the case, we will move to have the matter dismissed as a matter of law.”
Five different women, four of whom have children by White, filed the lawsuit Nov. 10. They sought pauper status from the court, which lets impoverished plaintiffs pursue a case without being liable for any fees or costs. But the court granted that status to only one of them, records show. The other four women were removed as plaintiffs Nov. 20.
Five days later, summonses were issued to the defendants, including Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni, Police Chief Michael Glaser and several unnamed officers. Yet those summonses never made it into the hands of the defendants, so they never responded to the allegations before Lemelle dismissed the case, Boudousque said.
White died after being shot on a Friday night in a parking lot outside some apartments at Martinique and West Esplanade avenues.
A camera scanning license plates for stolen vehicles alerted Kenner police to a 2009 Nissan Altima that had been taken a couple of weeks earlier. An officer riding in a marked unit spotted the car parked with its motor running behind one of the apartments in the 3500 block of Martinique, near the spot where it had been reported stolen.
Police said the officer approached the Nissan and ordered White out of the car but that White disobeyed the command and began driving at the officer. The officer fired a single shot, which struck White in the head. He died at a hospital about two days later.
Police said there was a handgun inside the Nissan and that they suspect White had burglarized a nearby apartment days earlier.
Burns pointed out that White was unarmed. Police also said there was no arrest warrant issued in the apartment burglary at the time of White’s shooting.