12 suits pending against Marksville Police Department

“The City of Marksville, through the Marksville Police Department, has employed a custom and usage of continually deploying officers into the field despite actual knowledge of such officers’ propensity to use excessive force and discharge Taser units without proper warning and without necessity.” -- allegation in lawsuit of Sammy Carmouche against the Marksville Police Department


    Claims of excessive force, unnecessary “tasing,” vindictive acts by police officers, wrongful arrest and false imprisonment are alleged in 12 suits currently pending against the Marksville Police Department. Eight of the lawsuits stem from incidents involving one or both of the officers charged in the shooting death of 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis during a traffic stop on Nov. 3.
    The other eight parish municipalities had about 12,000 in population in the 2010 Census count -- over twice Marksville’s 5,702. Yet, there are only three suits pending against other municipal police departments -- two in Bunkie and one in Cottonport.
    Marksville has more traffic and out-of-town visitors than the other municipalities. However, except for an incident involving a Bunkie man and one with a South Louisiana visitor, both during  July 4th festivities, the suits are by local residents about  unpleasant encounters with their local police officers.
     Several of those complaints are against Lt. Derrick Stafford and reserve officer Norris Greenhouse Jr., currently facing charges of 2nd-degree murder of Jeremy Mardis and the attempted 2nd-degree murder of the boy’s father, Chris Few, following a traffic stop on Nov. 3.       The two were on duty as Ward 2/City Marshals deputies at the time of that fatal incident.
    A State Police investigation indicates between 17 and 21 shots were fired into the stopped vehicle. An attorney in the case said the body camera video showed Few had his hands raised just before the hail of bullets that left his son dead and him critically wounded.
    Stafford is currently in the Rapides Parish Detention Center.  Greenhouse was released from that facility on Nov. 24 on a $1 million property bond posted by his parents. The two men were transferred to the Rapides center due to security issues.
    This is not Stafford’s first time in the Rapides jail. He spent a month there awaiting charges on two counts of aggravated rape. 
Rape Charges
    In October 2011, a Rapides Grand Jury indicted Stafford  for the 2004 rape of a 15-year-old and a separate rape that allegedly occurred in 2011. Bail was set at $300,000. It was later reduced to $40,000 and he was then able to be released on bail.
    Those charges were dismissed in May 2012, but authorities have indicated the charges could be resurrected.
    His attorney in that matter was Angelo Piazza III -- the Ward 2/Marksville City Court judge involved in a court funding feud with the city of Marksville that many in the community believe contributed to the Nov. 3 tragedy.
    There are 11 lawsuits filed in 12th Judicial District Court and one in the federal court in Lafayette.
    Taken as a group, the suits paint a portrait of a police department out of control, where its officers use force when it is not necessary, where the Taser is a first choice and not a last resort, and where personal vendettas are the rule rather than the exception.
Readers should be aware that a lawsuit is merely the allegations of one party against another and is not proof that those claims are true. By printing these allegations, this newspaper is not presenting those allegations as facts.
Federal suit
     The suit in federal court was filed by Ian Fridge, an Ascension Parish man who was arrested at the July 4th festivities in Marksville in 2014. He was charged with resisting an officer, battery on a police officer, remaining on premises after being forbidden, and possession of a firearm on premises where alcohol is served.
     The suit alleges undue force against five city police officers, including Stafford and Greenhouse.
     Fridge notes in his lawsuit that he attended the Marksville event to hand out information about the Libertarian Party. One of the party’s key beliefs is the “right to keep and bear arms” included in the Second Amendment. To demonstrate his commitment to that tenet, he and others in his group wore their holstered weapons in public.
    The arrest report on Fridge states he was wearing a holstered .40 caliber Desert Eagle pistol strapped to his leg. He was told he could not have the gun in the festival area because alcohol was being served there.
    The police report states Fridge argued and put his hand on his gun, at which point Greenhouse grabbed him. Stafford reported that Fridge elbowed Stafford in the face during the scuffle. In response, Stafford fired his Taser at Fridge and then handcuffed him.
    Police said Fridge smelled of alcohol, but Fridge said he did not drink at the event.
    In his account, Fridge said the officers taunted him in an effort to provoke him to draw his weapon. He claims he offered to take his gun to his car, but was "startled by the unanticipated use of force" by the gang of officers.
    He claims he did not resist the officers but the police were shouting "stop resisting" so onlookers would think he was.
    When Fridge told officers he had recently had shoulder and wrist surgery, they responded by tightening the handcuffs on his wrists.
    He said he was “tased” after he was handcuffed and lying face down on the ground.
    A video that Fridge made on his cellphone was deleted by police after his arrest, he said.
1 incident, 3 suits
    Three suits sprang out of an incident that occurred at the July 4th festivities in 2013.
    The incident occurred when several people were walking away from the festival area and a fight between two other people broke out. 
Police officers responded to break up the fight and officer Kenneth Jeansonne immediately deployed a chemical agent, spraying innocent individuals in the area.
    In a suit filed by Tameka Greenhouse, she alleges that her 14-year-old son Cameron was “accosted without warning” and assaulted by officer Johnathan Ducote. Other officers stood idly by and did not attempt to assist the young man. Jeansonne and Nicholas Bibbee joined in the assault, she alleges.
    She claims the officers committed a false arrest, false imprisonment, use of excessive force and an intentional infliction of emotional distress on Cameron and caused her, as his mother, emotional distress.
   Allen Desselles said in another suit that he and Tameka Greenhouse went to the police station to file a complaint against the police officers involved in the July 4 incident. Jeansonne was at the station and interrupted the process by saying Desselles was filing a false complaint.
   The next day, Jeansonne stopped Desselles around 9 p.m. and arrested him for an outstanding warrant for unpaid traffic tickets.
   Desselles said he told Jeansonne that he had paid the tickets, and attempted to produce the receipt showing the tickets had been paid. Jeansonne refused to look at the receipts and told Desselles, “Now my job is done. I’m going home.”
   Desselles said that during his arrest, he suffered a physical injury requiring hospitalization.
He also includes allegations of false arrest, false imprisonment, excessive force, assault, battery, denial of medical attention for an injury and other violations.
   Steven McIntosh was another member of the initial group of claimants. He alleges that during the melee after the chemical agent was released, officer Chad Mayeaux slammed him to the ground. He said Stafford, Greenhouse and Jeansonne assisted Mayeaux.
   Mayeaux “tased” him and Stafford sprayed a chemical agent directly on him.
   He is also alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, excessive force, assault, battery, failure to provide medical attention, and other charges.
A sick dog
   At the July 4, 2012 festival, a Bunkie family was stopped from crossing the parade route to take their English bulldog to a veterinarian. The bulldog was suffering from heat stroke and having seizures at the time.
   Patrick Jeansonne states in his suit that Stafford refused to let the Jeansonne’s vehicle cross Preston Street to a vet clinic. Jeansonne then got out of the car and carried the ill dog across the street to the veterinarian.
   He said Stafford did not pursue him or tell him that he was under arrest.
   Jeansonne called to file a complaint against Stafford. Stafford learned of the call and instructed officer Nicholas Bibbee to arrest Jeansonne, which he did.
   Jeansonne said the officer did not have an arrest warrant when he was handcuffed. Stafford arrived and asked Bibbee to remove the handcuffs so he could put his handcuffs on him. Stafford also did not produce an arrest warrant.
Jeansonne was charged with a misdemeanor, disturbing the peace.
   Jeansonne accuses Stafford of using excessive force, unlawful arrest, wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
   He accuses the Police Department officials of failure to properly supervise and train its officers.
   The case went to trial, where a jury awarded Jeansonne $50,000. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal reduced the award to $5,000. Jeansonne or the city can appeal the court's decision.
Other suits
    There are seven other suits pending against the Marksville Police Department.
    On Jan. 3, 2011, Aleithia Barbin said a police officer responded to a call at her house in response to her dispute with a  tow truck driver trying to repossess her vehicle. She said she told officer Brent Couvillion that she had to go inside to get the car keys.
    Couvillion followed her into the house without her permission and began searching her house without a warrant or probable cause.
She said she was holding her 3-month-old child in her left arm and Couvillion grabbed her right arm and jerked her around violently. At that time, she began yelling for someone to help her.
   Detective Lawrence Bordelon came into the house and took the baby from her. Couvillion then handcuffed her hands, pinning her jaw against the counter “causing severe injuries.”
   Stafford escorted Barbin to the police vehicle where he “violently tossed” her into the back seat with her hands cuffed behind her back. Then, without warning, he tased her in the stomach.
    In the suit, she says the officers’ actions were “extreme and outrageous, highly offensive and injurious.”
    On June 20, 2011, Police officer Cory Guillot went to the home of Sammy Carmouche and asked if Carmouche had shot the neighbor’s dog. Carmouche said he had not. Guillot asked again and got the same answer.
    Guillot then accusingly told Carmouche that if the dog had been shot, he would know Carmouche was responsible.
    Carmouche then asked Guillot what right he had to come on his property and make those false accusations.
    Guillot allegedly grabbed Carmouche’s right hand and jerked him toward the officer. Carmouche asked if he was under arrest and Guillot did not respond. He asked for permission to give his wife his cellphone and again got no response.
    Guillot called for backup and Carmouche put his cell phone on the porch railing. Guillot handcuffed him and pulled him down the porch steps and shoved his face into the side of the house.
    Stafford arrived on the scene and told Guillot to move. Stafford then fired his Taser into Carmouche’s chest, causing him to fall to the ground.”
    Carmouche claims he sustained personal injuries during the incident. He said the officers’ conduct “was extreme and outrageous, highly offensive and injurious.”
    The suit also states that the “City of Marksville, through the Marksville Police Department, has employed a custom and usage of continually deploying officers into the field despite actual knowledge of such officers’ propensity to use excessive force and discharge Taser units without proper warning and without necessity.”
    On Dec. 3, 2012, Mayeaux, Stafford and Bordelon responded to a call about a fight between two girls on a school bus.
    In the suit filed by Donald Martin on behalf of his daughter Kiana Martin, it is alleged that the three officers converged on Kiana, pinning her to floor of the bus. Stafford pressed down on her as he pulled her arm upward. There was a loud popping noise and Kiana began screaming and crying.
   An ambulance was called to the scene and it was determined her right arm had been broken. She was taken to the hospital for treatment.
   Martin alleges the officers were guilty of negligent injury, intentional infliction of emotional distress and use of excessive force.
   On April 3, 2012, Christine Walker Hawkins claims she became ill while driving home and temporarily increased her speed to 10-15 mph over the speed limit. She said officers Bibbee and Merrill Smith attempted to pull her over, but since she was only a mile from home and needed to get to a restroom, she did not stop.
   When she got home, she told the officers she was ill and would be right back after going to the bathroom.
   She said they engaged her in dialogue requesting information about her illness. Their police vehicle then “violently” hit her car, causing it to strike her and cause “permanent and disabling injuries.”
   Hawkins, a registered nurse, told the officers she was unarmed but they slammed her to the ground and put her right arm in an armlock. Her right arm was fractured, causing a permanent and disabling injury.
    On Oct. 27, 2011, police arrested Terrell Daniels, who was a minor at the time. His mother, Shante Daniels, alleges in her suit that he was questioned without her knowledge or consent and placed in Avoyelles Detention Center #1 with adult prisoners even though arresting officers knew he was a minor.
   She said the officers required that a high bond be set, making it impossible for her to bail him out of jail.
   He remained in jail until December. Daniels said her son was robbed while in the parish jail and “lived in constant fear of being assaulted and/or victimized by prisoners” while incarcerated.
   The experience has caused him physical and mental upset, inability to sleep regularly and unable to put the memories of his wrongful incarceration out of his mind, the suit states.
    On March 25, 2013, Jessica  Batiste filed a complaint with the city against police officer Carl Harvey, alleging “constant and malicious harassment while on the job, acting in his official capacity as a public safety officer.”
    She said the city did nothing about her complaint and took no action against Harvey.
    She said the harassment continued until Harvey was arrested on April 11, 2013, in Alexandria on charges that he was stalking her.
    She alleges extreme mental and physical distress, inability to sleep regularly and that she is “unable to put her ordeal out of her mind.”
    On March 28, 2014, former City Councilman Elliott Jordan Jr. and his wife Brenda Jordan were arrested when police responded to a call about a fight in front of the Jordans’ house.
    Jordan said he and his wife never left their porch and were not part of the fight, but were arrested anyway. He said his daughters, Vanlissa Jordan Coleman and Kila Jordan were acting in self-defense in a fight with two other women, who were not arrested.
    The Jordans and their daughters were all arrested on charges of aggravated battery and simple battery, but the charges were dismissed the day before the Grand Jury was to hear the case.
    Jordan alleges he was arrested for political reasons and that the arrest and speculation surrounding the arrest caused his defeat for re-election that year.