2021 Year in Review: Acadiana law enforcement agencies face accusations, lawsuits

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This image from video from Louisiana state police state trooper Dakota DeMoss’ body-worn camera, shows troopers holding up Ronald Greene before paramedics arrived on May 10, 2019, outside of Monroe, La. The video obtained by The Associated Press shows Louisiana state troopers stunning, punching and dragging the Black man as he apologizes for leading them on a high-speed chase, footage authorities refused to release in the two years since Greene died in police custody. (Louisiana State Police via AP)

(KLFY) — Law enforcement agencies all over the country have been under much scrutiny in the years 2020 and 2021. The very publicized death of George Floyd in May of 2020, along with other similar incidents, fanned the flames of calls for accountability of police officers’ actions and troublesome actions on the job.

Many national, state, and local agencies have faced corruption charges or fallen under investigation in the last year — at least five just in the Acadiana area in 2021.

Lafayette Police Department

In October of 2020, the Lafayette Police Department and Lafayette Consolidated Government were sued over the death of Trayford Pellerin, a Black man who was shot and killed by LPD officers on August 21, 2020, when they responded to a disturbance call about a person armed with a knife.

Trayford Pellerin
Trayford Pellerin

Pellerin was shot ten times by police as he was attempting to walk away from them outside of a Circle K gas station on the Evangeline Thruway.

Trayford Pellerin’s parents, Cedrick Pellerin and Michelle Pellerin, individually and on behalf of their deceased son, said they were seeking compensatory damages, special damages, punitive damages, reasonable attorney fees and such other relief as may appear just and appropriate.

The Pellerins, in their lawsuit, said that they were seeking to hold accountable the defendants for their son’s murder and for the pain, emotional distress, and financial loss caused to the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit also claims that between 2010 and 2019, statistics published by LPD show 1,172 use of force reports submitted by LPD officers, and in the same time period that 107 civil lawsuits were filed against LPD.

Here’s the full lawsuit:

On May 11, Lafayette Parish District Attorney Don Landry shared multiple bodycam and surveillance videos of the night Pellerin died. The release came after a grand jury declined to indict the officers involved in Pellerin’s shooting.

Baldwin Police Department / St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office

On Nov. 1, 2021, the mother of Quawan “Bobby” Charles, a 15-year-old Black boy who was found dead in a sugar cane field in Iberia Parish after being reported missing four days earlier, sued the Baldwin Police Department and St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office as well as their insurance companies, and a number of individuals involved in Charles’s disappearance and death.

Quawan “Bobby” Charles

Quawan Charles was reported missing on Oct. 30, 2020. He was allegedly picked up from his home by Janet Irvin, her son Gavin, and her boyfriend Tyler LeGros, without his mother’s knowledge and taken to Irvins’ trailer 25 miles away. Charles and Gavin Irvin, 17, allegedly got into a physical fight. The Irvins say Charles wandered away from their home later that night in “a dazed and confused state.” The coroner later found low levels of drugs, including THC, alcohol, and psylocibin in Charles’ system.

Charles’s body was eventually found Nov. 3, 2020, drowned in shallow water in a cane field. The coroner’s report suggested that Charles may have had a psychotic break, leading to suicide, an idea his family has rejected. His official manner of death remains undetermined.

The Baldwin Police Department, its chief Harry “Boo Boo” Smith, and its assistant chief, Samuel Wise III are listed in the suit along with St. Mary Parish Sheriff Blaise Smith. They’re accused of failing to ping Charles’s cell phone to attempt to locate him. Charles’s body was found when the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office pinged his phone.

Here’s the full lawsuit:

Broussard Police Department

Former Broussard Police Chief Brannon Decou came under investigation in April after being accused of sexual harassment and sending lewd photos to an employee of his.

Broussard Police Chief Brannon Decou
Former Broussard Police Chief Brannon Decou

Decou placed himself on voluntary leave during the sexual harassment investigation. He ultimately announced his retirement a few weeks later, effective June 1. He served as police chief for over 20 years, making him the longest-serving elected police chief in the history of the city.

Amid Decou’s investigation, the assistant police chief, Chris Galvez turned in his resignation when the city council voted unanimously to fire him. He was under investigation for “failure to pursue employee complaints and causing a lack of confidence within the police department.”

In mid-June, Vance Olivier was sworn in as the interim police chief. He’ll serve in the position until the next regular election in the fall of 2022. He was chosen by a nine-member selection committee, comprised of three council members, the mayor, and five community members who have law enforcement experience.

Taylor Jones, the officer that filed the complaint against Decou, filed a lawsuit against the CIty of Broussard and the police department in October, The Advertiser reported.

Crowley Police Department

Early in the year, Crowley Police Chief Allen James “Jimmy” Broussard was arrested on six felony charges; three charges of malfeasance in office, two charges of obstruction of justice, and one charge of injuring public records.

He was indicted by a grand jury on these charges on February 24. All charges listed are felonies that allegedly occurred between Jan. 1 and Oct. 30, 2020, in Acadia Parish.

Crowley Police Chief Jimmy Broussard

Broussard pleaded “not guilty” to his charges in May. A court date was scheduled for September, but it was delayed. It has not yet been rescheduled.

The indictment is below:

Broussard has also been sued for alleged retaliation against the whistleblowers who brought the situation to light.

Gueydan Police Department

In May, the Gueydan Police Chief, Shawn Theriot, came under investigation after he got into an argument at a tire shop, and allegedly hit someone.

The owner of the tire shop, Ashlyn Murphy, called it a misunderstanding. She said Theriot was not the instigator, and that he was defending himself after another customer got upset over two balding tires.

Murphy claims the customer got angry and accused the shop of scamming him. “He was upset with the service he got here and he initially got physical, he did not care who Shawn was or that he was a police officer and he kept attacking him. So he [Theriot] defended himself,” Murphy said.

She says the customer was pushing Theriot in the parking lot and Theriot defended himself.

Louisiana State Police

This undated photo provided by his family in September 2020 shows Ronald A. Greene. Greene’s family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit in May 2020 alleging Louisiana state troopers “brutalized” Greene, used a stun gun on him three times and “left him beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest” before covering up his actual cause of death. Officials originally said his injuries were caused by a car crash that ended a May 2019 police chase or an ensuing struggle with state troopers. (Family photo via AP)

While not accused of any specific incidents in Acadiana, the Louisiana State Police were also under investigation throughout 2021 for more than one unnecessary use of force cases. These cases include the 2019 beating of Aaron Larry Bowman, and the 2019 death of Ronald Greene.

A probe of Greene’s death grew to examine whether police brass obstructed justice to protect the troopers who beat the Black motorist after a high-speed chase.

The head of the Louisiana State Police said in September that he wants to know why 67% of his agency’s uses of force in recent years have been directed at Black people, and would welcome a U.S. Justice Department “pattern and practice” probe into potential racial profiling if that is deemed necessary, the AP reported.

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