Josef Richardson

Josef Richardson.

Nearly a year after a West Baton Rouge Parish deputy fatally shot a Port Allen man in the back of the neck while serving a "no-knock" warrant, his girlfriend filed a federal lawsuit arguing the sheriff's office and its deputies violated the couple's civil rights.

The lawsuit centers on the July 2019 shooting of Josef Richardson, 38, who was unarmed and wearing only shorts when deputies entered his room at the Budget 7 motel near Port Allen, according to the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court.

Richardson's girlfriend, Jessica Clouatre, was the only other person in the room during the shooting and said deputies shot her boyfriend within a few seconds of storming the room.

The law officers showed a "reckless and callous disregard" for their lives and safety, Clouatre argues in her lawsuit. She also says her arrest on a suspicion of drug charges after the raid was an attempt to intimidate her and has caused emotional harm and fear.

Her lawsuit names the West Baton Rouge Sheriff and deputy Vance Matranga, who was responsible for the shooting, as well as the other law officers who were part of the narcotics task force. It seeks monetary and punitive damages against them.

The shooting raised several questions among Richardson's family and their supporters, including the no-knock warrant allowing law officers to enter the motel room without announcement.

The technique received renewed scrutiny following the March police shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, who was killed after officers rushed into her apartment while she was sleeping. Some cities have ended or limited the use of no-knock warrants after officers and suspects have been killed and seriously injured while executing them.

Richardson's family has also questioned the shooting itself, pointing to a coroner's office report that found Richardson was shot in the back of the neck and an internal review by the sheriff's office that noted Matranga used his personal gun that had been modified with a lighter trigger.

The Louisiana Attorney General's Office declined to file charges against Matranga this year, and an internal review by the sheriff's office saw him return to work after finding he violated no department rules.

Matranga and another deputy told internal investigators they believed Richardson was armed, citing information they gleaned from an informant who had bought drugs from a man in the motel room who had a gun, according to the internal review stated. They said Richardson appeared to reach for his waistband during a struggle to handcuff him.

The state and local reviews make no mention of finding a gun in the motel. 

Richardson's family have called for a federal review of the case and plan to move forward with their own wrongful death lawsuit they filed shortly after the deadly encounter.

The sheriff's office said it's reviewing the lawsuits but declined to comment while they're pending.

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