Parish: Terrebonne

Police Department(s):

  • Houma Police Department
  • Terrebonne Police Department
  • Louisiana State Police

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, alongside Akerman LLP, is representing the surviving wife and children of Miguel Nevarez, a 36-year-old Afro-Latino man who officers fatally shot 17 times in October 2020. The lawsuit names six Houma Police Department officers, including the chief; the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office; and the Louisiana State Police for the unjust seizure and wrongful death of Mr. Nevarez. The lawsuit asserts that officers from the Houma Police Department and Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office violated Mr. Nevarez’s Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully seizing him and using unjustifiable deadly force against him and also brings a claim against Terrebonne Parish and the Louisiana State Police under the Louisiana Public Records Act for their refusal to produce public records in connection with Mr. Nevarez’s death. 

The incident occurred in Mr. Nevarez’s driveway, where he was sitting in the driver’s seat of his car.  Officers claimed to have approached him because a neighbor alleged Mr. Nevarez was doing target practice in his backyard, a misdemeanor in Louisiana. The officers, who did not see any gun, asked Mr. Nevarez to exit his car to come to speak with them, and when he declined, they unnecessarily escalated the situation into a SWAT scene, surrounding Mr. Nevarez’s home with police units, cordoning off his street, and blocking his car in the driveway with an armored police truck. The officers held Mr. Nevarez at gunpoint for nearly two hours—none of them ever seeing a gun as they watched him in his car.  They claim Mr. Nevarez then exited his car with a gun in his hand and, while allegedly attempting to flee, raised the gun at the officers, who then shot him 17 times—7 in his back. The only evidence of this version of events is statements from the five officers who shot Mr. Nevarez. The Louisiana State Police alleged it investigated the officers and found none of them committed any wrongdoing.

In pursuit of objective evidence about Mr. Nevarez’s death, including the body-worn camera footage showing the final seconds before his death, the Plaintiffs submitted public records requests to the records custodians of Terrebonne Parish and the Louisiana State Police. Those requests went largely unanswered amid various excuses, including that the Louisiana State Police’s investigation was ongoing even though Terrebonne Parish had previously produced documents showing the Louisiana State Police’s investigation had closed months earlier.

The officers’ decision to escalate the situation is a prime example of the unconstitutional seizures and excessive force people of color frequently face, and the governing authorities’ refusal to produce related public records shows how these violations continue to go unchecked and unpunished.

Defendants Anthony Dorris and Justin Leonard filed a Motion to Dismiss. On July 7, 2022, the court grants defendants’ first motion to dismiss as to plaintiffs De’Andre Willis, BN, MN, and GN, and denies defendants’ motion as to Julie Nevarez in part on the merits, and in part on the grounds of mootness. The Court further grants defendants’ second motion to dismiss as to Julie Nevarez. 

In their first motion to dismiss, movants assert that plaintiffs cannot maintain their section 1983 claim against Leonard regarding the search warrant for the Nevarezes’ home and car because the claim is impermissibly brought on behalf of the decedent. The court found that plaintiffs do not seek redress for a deprivation of Miguel Nevarez’s constitutional rights. Additionally, the court finds there to be a lack of standing by the decedent’s children. The court thus dismisses for lack of standing the claims against movants brought by Willis, and Ms. Nevarez on behalf of her minor children BN, MN, and GN. 

In response to plaintiff’s amended complaint, defendants Leonard and Dorris filed a second motion to dismiss the claims against them under Rule 12(b)(6). They assert that Ms. Nevarez has failed to plead sufficient facts to overcome defendants’ qualified- immunity defense. The court found that Ms. Nevarez has not alleged facts sufficient to plausibly suggest that Leonard secured a search warrant that was facially lacking in probable cause. Finding that based on the totality of the circumstances, the warrant affidavit provided sufficient support for the inference that evidence of Nevarez’s alleged aggravated assault upon a peace officer might have been discovered in his car and home. Ms. Nevarez has failed to plausibly allege that movants violated a constitutional right, meaning that she has failed to state a section 1983 claim against either Leonard or Dorris. Thus, the Court grants defendants’ second motion to dismiss plaintiff’s section 1983 claims against them. 

The defendants in the case are:

  • Dana Coleman, chief of  the Houma Police Department
  • John Bolgiano, officer of the Houma Police Department
  • Corey Duplantis, officer of the Houma Police Department
  • Derek Schlesinger, officer of the Houma Police Department
  • Walter Tenney, officer of the Houma Police Department
  • Sidney Theriot, officer of the Houma Police Department
  • Timothy Soignet, sheriff of the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office
  • Justin Leonard, state trooper with the Louisiana State Police
  • Anthony Dorris, state trooper with the Louisiana State Police
  • Mart Black, records custodian for Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government
  • Nick Manale, records custodian for Louisiana State Police

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