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Opelousas Police Sgt. Tyron Andrepont, 49, was booked on five counts of malfeasance in office after accusations he used excessive force against 21-year-old Jonah Coleman while Coleman was undergoing treatment at Opelousas General Hospital in October 2019. 

The Opelousas police officer accused of battering a young Black man at an Opelousas General emergency room in October has resigned, less than 24 hours before the police chief intended to recommend his termination for the excessive-force incident. 

Sgt. Tyron Andrepont, a 17-year veteran of the department, submitted his resignation to Opelousas Police Chief Martin McLendon, Mayor Julius Alsandor and the city attorney via email at the end of business hours Monday, McLendon said. The chief said hours earlier he had informed Andrepont of a planned Tuesday meeting to discuss an internal affairs investigation into his conduct.

The internal affairs investigation concluded last week and McLendon said he was planning to recommend Andrepont’s termination; by resigning, Andrepont avoids those consequences, he said. The chief said he’s disappointed the case will not have a formal resolution before the city council.

McLendon said the internal affairs findings will be included in Andrepont’s file and he intends to include a letter highlighting his planned recommendation to fire Andrepont because “he was no longer, in my opinion, fit for duty and should not have been wearing the uniform.”

Andrepont’s resignation will go before the Opelousas City Council for approval July 14. McLendon does not have the authority to hire, fire or approve resignations.

Andrepont, 49, had been on paid administrative leave since November, when Louisiana State Police launched an investigation into allegations Andrepont battered 21-year-old Jonah Coleman Jr. after Coleman was admitted to Opelousas General Health System’s south hospital by family members on Oct. 30, unrelated to a criminal matter, Coleman’s Dallas-based attorney Daryl K. Washington said.

Descriptions of the battery included in a probable cause affidavit filed June 12 said Andrepont struck Coleman in the face at least once, causing his head “to snap backwards,” and “put his right arm around Jonah’s neck in a chokehold,” while he was restrained in a hospital bed, among other acts of battery, the document said. 

McLendon said Tuesday he was issuing guidance to his officers banning the use of chokeholds. Department staff are also reviewing use of force policies to determine if other updates are needed and looking for areas where training can be improved, he said.

The chief said Andrepont’s actions are not reflective of the entire force, but they serve as a wake-up call about the importance of training, ensuring everyone’s dignity in all police interactions, avoiding harm and showing restraint.

“I’ve said to my officers and supervisors that the badge has been tarnished and it’s our obligation to polish it up and restore confidence that we are here to do a job and not abuse our authority,” he said.

On June 9, Andrepont was arrested on five counts of malfeasance in office stemming from the battery and excessive force allegations. While the state police investigation was completed in February, the criminal charges were delayed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, St. Landry Parish District Attorney Charles Cravins said.

Malfeasance in office is committed when a public officer or employee intentionally refuses or fails to perform their duty, intentionally performs their duty in an unlawful manner or knowingly permits someone under their authority to do the same, according to state law.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years, and if convicted, Andrepont’s peace officer certification would be revoked.

Washington said the Coleman family is relieved Andrepont will no longer wear an Opelousas Police uniform, but they’re concerned Andrepont is attempting to maintain a clean employment record and dodge the system through his resignation.

“We do not think he deserves to have the opportunity to resign. Based on his prior complaints and history, this officer should be terminated. He should not have the ability to ever be a police officer ever again,” he said.

Washington said he and the Coleman family will push to ensure the internal affairs investigation findings are clearly reflected in Andrepont’s personnel file.

Public pressure has mounted around the Andrepont case as communities nationwide reckon with police brutality and law enforcement’s role in the community after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25. The St. Landry NAACP held a press conference June 22 to call for Andrepont’s termination and a solidarity rally for Coleman is planned Friday.

Washington said the public support is meaningful to the Coleman family, but it also sends a powerful message to other residents who have had abusive interactions with Andrepont in the past.

“I think it gives prior victims some relief to know that the person that assaulted them will no longer have any type of authority over them,” Washington said.

Andrepont has been previously accused of using excessive force; in 2011, he was sued by an Opelousas minister, Elton Sam, for using excessive force against Sam after accusing him of stealing from an area Goodwill.

Andrepont is accused of slamming Sam’s face onto the hood of his police unit, putting Sam into a chokehold while he was handcuffed and shoving him into the door of his patrol car, among other acts. The lawsuit remains active.

Disciplinary records from the Opelousas Police Department show Andrepont was suspended for 40 hours in December 2015 for unbecoming conduct, 80 hours in February 2009 for unauthorized use of force and 12 hours in August 2006 for “conduct of a discourteous or wantonly offensive nature.” He was also ordered to take anger management courses as part of the 2009 incident’s discipline.

Andrepont was also cited in April 2019 for breaking department rules on courtesy and suspended for eight hours in March 2011 for using tobacco with a passenger present in his police vehicle.

Editor's note: Due to incorrect information provided by a family spokesperson, stories about Jonah Coleman misstated his age. He is 21, not 18. 

Email Katie Gagliano at kgagliano@theadvocate.com