The president of the Jefferson Parish branch of the state NAACP called Tuesday for anyone with information about the police killing of 22-year-old Keeven Robinson to come forward.

Gaylor Spiller and other members of the NAACP gave interviews to local media Tuesday afternoon on Jefferson Highway, just down the street from where Robinson was killed Thursday.

Four plainclothes officers had chased him into a backyard late that morning, and at least one of them put enough pressure on his neck during the arrest to asphyxiate him, according to preliminary autopsy findings. 

Michael McClanahan, the NAACP’s state conference president, said people in the New Orleans area are hesitant to provide information involving the police, but that anyone who saw anything should know they can come forward.

Robinson's death has been ruled a homicide, and Jefferson Sheriff Joe Lopinto said four narcotics agents involved in his arrest — all of them white — have been placed on desk duty as the agency investigates.

Spiller also called for the four officers to be arrested and charged with murder, and said they should not be paid while the investigation proceeds.

“We are calling for love and peace, but we are also calling for the arrest and charges against the police officers," she said. "They do not deserve the citizens’ money.”

“That young man didn’t have to die the way he did,” Spiller added. 

The Sheriff’s Office has said its investigation is centering on the question of whether the deputies used excessive force in arresting Robinson. The agency has asked for assistance in the probe from State Police and the FBI’s Civil Rights Task Force.

On Monday night, hundreds of demonstrators marched through the Shrewsbury section of East Jefferson in protest of Robinson's death.

The protesters took to the streets just hours after the Jefferson Parish coroner announced that Robinson was asphyxiated and sustained neck trauma during the arrest.

Robinson’s large family, which maintained from the start that his death was no accident, was surrounded by scores of supporters as they walked through the residential neighborhood.

“I’ve known Keeven all my life. He didn’t deserve what he got,” said Luciana Johnson, who said she is a friend of Robinson’s mother Kiwanda. “It’s time for them to stop killing our young black men.”

Protesters held up signs reading #justice4keeven and wore shirts reading “Shrewsbury is my home” as the demonstration made its way from the Shell gasoline station where deputies first tried to arrest Robinson to the Frank Lemon Playground, the gym where he once played basketball as a child.

Lopinto said Robinson, who was the target of a drug investigation, fled before agents caught him in the backyard of a nearby residence. They handcuffed him after a struggle but he stopped breathing, Lopinto said.

Neighbors watched as Monday's protest passed by neat, one-story houses. At one point, an overwhelmed Kiwanda Robinson stopped in the middle of the street, with two other women supporting her body.

“You OK, Kiki. You OK,” one of them said, and the march continued.

Although the sun was falling as the protest ended, the temperature still hovered around 90 degrees.

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Many in the crowd were cousins or more distant relatives of Robinson, and even those who were not directly related to him described Shrewsbury as a tight-knit neighborhood.

Looking around as the crowd milled in front of the gym, Johnson said she recognized “just about everybody.”

“This is a community that comes together,” she said. “Everybody raises each other’s kids.”

Robinson’s father, 44-year-old Steven Jackson, said he was comforted by the large turnout. He was also glad to hear the coroner had ruled his son’s death a homicide.

“It’s hopeful, and it makes you feel good, but justice still hasn’t been heard,” he said. “We already had an idea of what happened.”

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Supporters of the family expressed a similar mix of appreciation and hesitation about the investigation into Robinson’s death. Many said it was their first time engaged in this type of civic protest.

Outside the gym, another of Robinson’s cousins, Mizel Henry, wore sunglasses and smoked a cigar as he engaged in a constant stream of hugs and greetings with people he knows from growing up in the area.

Henry, 42, said narcotics agents like those who were involved in the attempted arrest of his cousin had a reputation in the area.

“They feel like if they have a badge, they can do what they want,” he said. “They’re always in something like this.”

Lopinto has defended those agents as a necessary factor in keeping crime low in Jefferson Parish.

Henry said that when he was 17, he was involved in a situation with parallels to his cousin’s. Narcotics agents pulled him over in search of a suspect. It was a case of mistaken identity, Henry said, but he wound up getting a knee in his back and feeling the jolt of a stun gun.

“I don’t get harassed no more. But I don’t live around here no more,” he said.

Staff writer Chad Calder contributed to this report. 


Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.

msledge@theadvocate.com | (504) 636-7432