Keeven

Keeven Robinson

Nearly a year after Keeven Robinson was fatally choked during a struggle with Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office narcotics investigators in the Shrewsbury neighborhood, his family on Tuesday filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court against the deputies and the agency.

The suit — which was filed by Robinson’s widow, Wachelle Boutte, and seeks an unspecified amount of damages — says the deputies were not justified when they allegedly killed Robinson while attempting to arrest him last May, and that the agency had failed to properly train and supervise them.

None of the four undercover drug agents who were put on desk duty following Robinson’s death — David Lowe, Jason Spadoni, Justin Brister and Gary Bordelon — have been criminally charged by either state or federal authorities.

It is unclear whether they have ever returned to regular duty; the Sheriff's Office did not respond to questions or make any comment on the lawsuit Tuesday. 

The latest suit joins other pending cases accusing Jefferson Parish narcotics investigators of excessive force in recent years. One of those cases — filed last year by a man who survived being shot four times by deputies working a drug sting in 2017 — was ordered stayed in November until the resolution of criminal charges filed against the plaintiff, Ryan Jackson.

The Robinson family's lawsuit also comes less than a month after Sheriff’s Office narcotics investigators fatally shot two other men, Chris Joseph and Daviri Robertson, while they sat in a car during an undercover sting outside a Terrytown IHOP restaurant.

The Sheriff’s Office said deputies began firing into the car when Joseph backed it into an investigator, with Robertson in the passenger seat. One agent was shot by a colleague during the incident. The agents involved haven’t been identified. 

Robinson, 22, came under the Sheriff’s Office scrutiny last spring after detectives received a tip from an informant who had allegedly bought drugs from him.

Following up on that tip on May 10 of last year, Lowe, Spadoni, Brister and Bordelon tried to use their unmarked cars to box in Robinson’s sport-utility vehicle at Jefferson Highway and Labarre Place.

Robinson drove out of the trap, headed into a nearby neighborhood, doubled back toward Jefferson Highway and collided with at least one of the unmarked vehicles, according to surveillance clips from a nearby home and business.

Deputies chased Robinson on foot into the backyard of a home, where they overpowered and handcuffed him. Robinson stopped breathing sometime after he was handcuffed and was soon pronounced dead at nearby Ochsner Medical Center.

The parish Coroner’s Office ruled Robinson’s death was a homicide and that he had died because someone squeezed, grabbed or leaned on his neck, critically damaging soft tissues.

The Sheriff’s Office said that investigators recovered what appeared to be heroin and marijuana on Robinson as well as a pistol in the SUV. The deputies were not equipped with body-worn or dashboard cameras, and it does not appear that any video footage exists showing Robinson being handcuffed.

The new lawsuit — prepared by attorneys Hester Hilliard, Clarence Roby and Dennis Moore — asserts that Robinson already had surrendered when the four deputies began “beating and choking” him, violating Robinson’s constitutional right to due process.

The suit alleges that Sheriff Joe Lopinto's agency “failed to adequately train its officers on how to deal with individuals during a stop and … the proper use of force.”

Without elaborating, the suit contends that “Lowe, Spadoni, Brister and/or Bordelon had prior internal affairs investigations and/or civil suits in reference to their conduct” but remain employed by the Sheriff's Office, which is also accused of demonstrating “a deliberate indifference to Mr. Robinson and other citizens of … Jefferson.”

Named as defendants are the Sheriff’s Office, its insurer, Lopinto and the four deputies.

This was the second time in a few months that Bordelon was accused in a federal lawsuit of using excessive force. In September, Joseph Little accused a group of deputies including Bordelon of hitting him with their car and kicking him while he was on the ground during an undercover drug sting in June 2017.

Little pleaded guilty to drug violations as a result of the sting. But he alleged that deputies used excessive force on him. His lawsuit remains pending.

Other lawsuits in recent years have accused members of the Sheriff's Office's narcotics squad of using excessive force, but they were dismissed without the plaintiffs being awarded damages. 


Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.