Case #20 – Decquir v. Bentel et al.

Parish: Jefferson

Police Department: Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, along with Alston & Bird LLP, has sued Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto, III and several officers from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (“JPSO”) for the racist and ruthless attack of Xavimen Decquir, a Black man who was in their custody last September. The lawsuit asserts that several officers from JPSO violated Mr. Decquir’s constitutional rights by physically attacking him while he was being held in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center (“JPCC”). The lawsuit also asserts that Jefferson Parish police officers are liable under Louisiana state law for their violent treatment of Mr. Decquir.

As a result of the attack, Mr. Decquir sustained the following injuries: a facial fracture, extensive facial bleeding, a dislocated shoulder, bruised ribs, a concussion, and loose teeth. He also required eight staples in his head. Since the attack, Mr. Decquir’s mental health has worsened, and he continues to experience a significant amount of physical pain. He now walks with a limp, continues to suffer from chronic headaches and body aches, and experiences bouts of blurred vision and memory loss.

The abuse Mr. Decquir endured at the hands of JPSO is a continuation of a disturbing pattern of intentional discrimination and deep-rooted racial violence perpetrated by JPSO against Black people. JPSO’s well-settled policies, practices, and customs disproportionately subject Black people to excessive violence and in some cases, death by officers who are supposed to protect them. In Jefferson Parish, a Black person is 11.3x as likely to be killed by police than a White person. Further, though Black people were only 26% of the Jefferson Parish population, they made up 73% of the people killed by the police from 2013-2020. Since 2018, at least five Black people were killed by JPSO. “‘The Black community . . . fear[s] the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office,’” and this fear is justified.

Despite these alarming patterns of anti-Black violence, Sheriff Lopinto refuses to implement the use of body cams to help mitigate this pressing issue, citing budget issues and disregarding the loss of life.

This incident also reflects Jefferson Parish’s failure to protect its most vulnerable citizens, including those from marginalized communities who, like Mr. Decquir, suffer from mental illness. On the day of his attack, Mr. Decquir was feeling especially depressed due to the recent loss of several family members. Mr. Decquir’s behavior on that day led his mother, Ms. Decquir, to call the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office (“JPCO”) for assistance. Instead of offering appropriate assistance, JPCO advised Ms. Decquir to call the police, which she did. When officers from JPSO arrived at the Decquir residence, Mr. Decquir was calm, and no longer exhibiting concerning behavior. Nonetheless, the officers handcuffed Mr. Decquir and escorted him out of the house.

Ms. Decquir asked the officers if they could take her son to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation and care, but the officers informed her that all they could do was take him to JPCC for 72 hours because the hospitals were full due to COVID-19. Ms. Decquir reluctantly agreed, expecting that her son would be kept safe. The officers, however, never informed Mr. Decquir that he was being taken to JPCC. He thought he was being taken to a psychiatric hospital. Mr. Decquir was therefore confused when he arrived at JPCC and asked to call his family. He was denied a chance to call his family and was instead placed in a holding cell and told to “shut up.”

Rather than “shut up,” Mr. Decquir continued to plead for a phone call. Mr. Decquir was then asked to exit the holding cell by two officers. Though he complied, the officers slammed Mr. Decquir’s head into the holding cell door and proceeded to punch and kick Mr. Decquir until he was on the ground. As this was happening, other officers surrounded Mr. Decquir. Once Mr. Decquir was on the ground, the officers kept him pinned down and continued to deliver blows to Mr. Decquir’s head and body. For most of the attack, Mr. Decquir was on the ground, desperately trying to protect his head and face.

Another disturbing aspect of this incident is the fact many of the officers in the vicinity of where the attack took place simply watched the attack and failed to intervene.

Mr. Decquir seeks to hold Sheriff Lopinto, Jefferson Parish, and its police officers accountable for their racially motivated and violent treatment of Black people and people of color.

The defendants in the case include:

  • JPSO Sheriff P. Joseph Lopinto, III
  • JPSO Officers Jonathan D. Bentel, Durand Hewitt, Robert Johnson, and Hiep Nguyen, among others

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