CASE #23 – Danks v. Grayson et al.

Parish: Jefferson

Police Department: Kenner Police Department

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, along with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, P.C. and Barrasso Usdin Kupperman Freeman & Sarver, LLC commenced a civil rights action against ten Kenner police officers, the Kenner Police Chief, and the City of Kenner, for the unlawful arrest and use of excessive force against an unarmed and nonthreatening Black woman who was suspected of no crime. The lawsuit asserts that the officer defendants violated Jacinta Danks’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by detaining and arresting her without probable cause, subjecting her to excessive use of force, failing to intervene to prevent the use of excessive force, and fabricating “cover charges” in an attempt to avoid accountability. The suit asserts a claim against the Chief of Police and City of Kenner for an unconstitutional policy of deliberate indifference towards the use of force against passengers during traffic stops.   

The incident occurred the night of October 10, 2020, when Ms. Danks was riding in the passenger seat during a drive with her brother, mourning the recent passing of their younger brother. A Kenner police officer pulled the car over for a traffic violation. While the police engaged with her brother outside of the car, Ms. Danks remained in the passenger seat with her hands up where the police could see them.

Despite the lack of any active resistance or aggressive conduct on the part of Ms. Danks, multiple Kenner police officers rushed to Ms. Danks’ side of the car and began yelling at her. Before she could exit the vehicle or even unbuckle her seatbelt, three officers violently grabbed her by her hair, shirt, and leg and yanked her out of the car. They then threw Ms. Danks to the ground, resulting in a back injury that persists to present day. The officers handcuffed Ms. Danks while she was face down on the ground and one officer then used his foot to step on her back, pressing her further against the pavement so that she could not move, and held her there for an extended period of time. Several other officers witnessed the entire encounter and stood by without even attempting to de-escalate the encounter or prevent the use of such extreme force against an unarmed passenger suspected of no crime. Ms. Danks had done nothing wrong yet in an effort to avoid being held accountable, one officer charged her with resisting and battering an officer—charges that were entirely unfounded.

The use of extreme force against and arrest of Ms. Danks for simply being a passenger in car involved in a traffic stop is yet another example of the constant mistreatment and criminalization of Black women by law enforcement in Kenner Louisiana.

The defendants in the case are:

  • Phillip Grayson, officer of the Kenner Police Department
  • Daniel Grayson, officer of the Kenner Police Department
  • Chase Lawler, officer of the Kenner Police Department
  • Nicholas Gagliano, officer of the Kenner Police Department  
  • Nathan Hodges, officer of the Kenner Police Department
  • Joshua Zurita, officer of the Kenner Police Department
  • Brittany Mayer, officer of the Kenner Police Department
  • Jeffrey Fitzmorris, officer of the Kenner Police Department
  • Brandon McCormick, officer of the Kenner Police Department
  • Victoria Schoen, officer of the Kenner Police Department
  • Michael J. Glaser, Chief of Kenner Police Department
  • The City of Kenner

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