CASE #13 – Hankins v. Wheeler et al.

Parish: Orleans

Police Department(s):

  • Orleans Levee District Police Department; and
  • Housing Authority New Orleans.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and Cooley LLP are representing Bilal Hankins in a civil rights action against multiple law enforcement officers and agencies in New Orleans for their unlawful, racially motivated traffic stop and use of excessive force on June 13, 2020.

This case arises out of a traumatic encounter 18-year-old Bilal had with law enforcement on June 13, 2020. As the lawsuit alleges, Bilal and two young friends—one only 12 years old—were driving through their neighborhood, looking for a lost dog. They approached a uniformed officer a marked vehicle and asked for help in their search. Sadly, Bilal was quickly reminded that Black youth are more likely than their white peers to be perceived and treated as a threat, even when they voluntarily approach the police and ask for help.

The officer (Defendant Kevin Wheeler, employed by the Orleans Levee District Police (“OLDP”)) was suspicious of three young Black males driving slowly and leaning out their windows in a BMW, notwithstanding that these actions were  all entirely consistent with Bilal’s explanation that they were looking for a lost dog. Instead of helping search for the missing dog,  Defendant Wheeler contacted a second officer in the area (Defendant Ramon Pierre, employed by the Housing Authority of New Orleans (“HANO”)) for backup.

Defendants Wheeler and Pierre then followed Bilal and his friends for approximately 20 minutes before conducting an illegal traffic stop. Defendants Wheeler and Pierre demanded Bilal and his young companions pull over, questioned them at gunpoint, and accused them of lying about the missing dog to hide a potential carjacking or burglary. Only after Bilal and his friends proved they were telling the truth were they allowed to leave. The missing dog was found the following day, but Bilal and his friends will suffer trauma from this event for the rest of their lives. They no longer trust the police, and do not feel safe requesting police assistance.

Worse yet, Bilal later discovered that Defendants Wheeler and Pierre were not even working for the police at the time of the incident. Rather, they were off-duty, working a “paid detail” as security patrol officers for the Hurstville Security and Neighborhood Improvement District (“Hurstville”). Hurstville is a more affluent neighborhood in New Orleans where residents have self-imposed a tax to pay for their own security force, with minimal vetting or oversight. When Bilal’s mother called Hurstville to complain, for example, the Hurstville patrol supervisor (Defendant Carl Perilloux) claimed to have no report of the incident. She also discovered that Defendant Wheeler had previously been fired from the NOPD for dishonesty, yet still found employment as a law enforcement officer with both Hurstville and the OLDP.

By bringing this case, Bilal seeks to hold Defendants Wheeler and Pierre, their supervisor Defendant Perilloux, and their employers accountable for their violations of citizens’ rights under the U.S. Constitution, the Louisiana Constitution, and Louisiana state common and statutory laws.

The Defendants in the case are:

  • Kevin Wheeler, OLDP officer and Hurstville employee
  • Ramon Pierre, HANO officer and Hurstville employee
  • Carl Perrilloux, OLDP Reserves officer and Hurstville supervisor

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