An incident that occurred in December 2012 is being investigated after a federal subpoena revealed a disturbing video of a prisoner, Marcus Robicheaux, being assaulted by a guard, David Prejean, and his K9 partner in the Iberia Parish Jail in Southern Louisiana. Robicheaux is shown in the video being repeatedly attacked by a K9 officer and his handler in a common yard inside the jail.
According to court documents obtained by PINAC, Robicheaux filed suit against the Iberia Sheriff’s Office, alleging the assault, in January 2012. His lawsuit was filed pro-se in his own handwriting while he was still in the custody of the facility awaiting trial for drug charges. Sheriff Louis Ackal says he knew nothing of the incident for another two years and has never seen the video.
Since taking office in 2008, Ackal has faced some thirty separate lawsuits on allegations of misconduct, abuse and murder. At least six people have died in custody of the sheriff’s office during his tenure.
The assault in the video drew the attention of federal investigators after a former warden of the jail, Westley Hayes, filed a separate whistleblower lawsuit. Hayes claims he was fired for reporting misconduct and corruption within the department.
The Baton Rouge Advocate, who has reported extensively on the actions of Iberia Sheriff’s employees, reported the following:
In documents filed in the case, Hayes contends he submitted a report of the incident, as well as the footage, to at least two high-ranking officers in the Sheriff’s Office — but not Ackal — and that they took no action.
David Prejean, the deputy in the video, was fired in January 2015 but has yet to face any charges for the assault. The Baton Rouge Advocate reports that Prejean is also named in other pending civil law suites filed against the department claiming excessive force.
Prejean is named in at least three pending civil suits aimed against the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office that claim deputies used excessive force. Two of the suits stem from a single incident in which officers were attempting to disperse residents celebrating the 2013 Sugar Cane Festival.
In his lawsuit Robicheaux alleges:
On December 6, 2012, at approximately 2:30 pm., Mr. Marcus Robicheaux was brutally beaten by a member of the Iberia Parish Police Task Force known as IMPACT. Mr. Marcus Robicheaux was also viciously mauled by the member’s of the canine unit. The event occurred within the Iberia Parish Jail while the inmate dormitory, known as “E-Pod” was being searched for contraband. After being stripped searched, Mr. Robicheaux and his fellow inmates were lined up on the recreation yard. Mr. Robicheaux and the other inmates were instructed to interlock their hands behind their heads, line up elbow to elbow and face te wall. Mr. Robicheaux followed these instructions and awaited further instructions. While waiting, Mr. Robicheaux proceeded to adjust his pants which were falling. Mr. Robicheaux returned his hands to the interlocked position behind his head. Without warning, Mr. Robicheaux was forcibly slammed face first into the concrete ground. Mr. Robicheaux kept his hands behind his head. Mr. Robicheaux was then attacked by an officer and his K9.
Prejean, the K9 handler involved in the attack, filed a report on the incident when it happened but the report doesn’t jive with the video. According to the Advocate, Prejean reported that Robicheaux refused orders to “stop looking at him.”
In a quick reaction, I gave Robicheaux a leg strike to Robicheaux’s left side and attempted to roll Robicheaux onto his stomach and into a prone position so he could be handcuffed,” Prejean wrote.
This incident marks the third federal probe of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office in the past three years. The most notable of those probes concerns the Houdini like suicide of Victor White III, who was found dead in the back of a patrol car with a gunshot wound to the chest. White was handcuffed and had been searched at least twice before being placed in the car for transport to the Iberia Parish Jail. Sheriff’s Department Officials say the deputy transporting White had trouble unloading him from the car and went inside to get assistance. When officers returned, they say they found White shot dead, still handcuffed behind his back.
Early reports from Iberia Parish Sheriff’s office and Louisiana State Police claimed White shot himself in the back but later autopsy results reported that White was shot in the chest. The Iberia Parish Coroner’s Office has ruled the death a suicide. White’s father, Victor White Sr., doesn’t believe the facts of the case support a suicide. The case is currently still under investigation after more than a year.
Another recent incident involved Iberia Sheriff’s deputies beating a handcuffed man after the annual Sugar Cane Festival held in New Iberia. This video led to another federal investigation as well as one deputy being charged with a misdemeanor civil rights violation. A press release issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation gives insight into the charges and the sentence handed down:
Cody Laperouse, 29, of New Iberia, La., pleaded guilty to a one-count bill of information charging a violation of an individual’s civil rights by use of excessive force. The plea was taken by U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna. According to evidence presented at the guilty plea, Laperouse, while acting as a deputy of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office on September 29, 2013, struck a man who was under arrest and on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back. Laperouse was one of several officers tasked with dispersing a large crowd around 1:40 a.m. that had gathered after the close of the Sugar Cane Festival in New Iberia. The crowd was asked to disperse, and the victim was arrested during this time. The victim was instructed to lie flat on the ground in a face-down position, but instead remained on his side and did not comply with the instructions. Laperouse struck the victim twice, using excessive force.
Videos of the jailhouse dog incident and the Sugar Cane Festival can be seen below.