Parish: Jefferson Davis
Police Departments: Jennings Police Department and Welsh Police Department
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz are representing Talj Howard in a lawsuit against the City of Jennings, Eduardo Mendoza, a patrolman of the Jennings Police Department, Christopher Bergeaux, a sergeant of the Jennings Police Department and David Amrine, an officer of the Welsh Police Department. Patrolman Mendoza is currently a defendant in a separate civil-rights lawsuit in the United States District Court in the Western District of Louisiana.
On April 8, 2021, Mr. Howard, a Black elementary- and middle-school teacher from New Jersey, was driving through Jennings, Louisiana when he was pulled over by Patrolman Mendoza for allegedly improperly using the left lane of Interstate 10. What followed bore no resemblance to a routine traffic stop. Patrolman Mendoza ordered Mr. Howard from his vehicle and questioned him about his home, his job, and his itinerary. Then, together with Sergeant Bergeaux, who he called as back-up for this alleged traffic violation, Patrolman Mendoza frisked Mr. Howard, forbade him from retrieving his cell phone from his car, and ran computer searches to track his travels over the preceding days. Officer Amrine then subjected Mr. Howard’s car to a canine inspection and Patrolman Mendoza searched the interior and trunk of his car, removing internal panels and unzipping his luggage to rifle through Mr. Howard’s clothes and personal effects. All of this was done without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. After a humiliating and frightening hour-long detention on the side of the highway in 90-degree weather, the officers finally allowed Mr. Howard to leave, having found nothing illegal in his possession.
Mr. Howard is bringing this lawsuit to seek redress for the unlawful traffic stop, pat down, detention, and search, all in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 5 of the Louisiana Constitution; unlawful arrest in violation of Louisiana law; and the Jennings Police Department’s failure to properly hire, supervise, and discipline its officers. Mr. Howard also seeks a declaration that the officers’ conduct was illegal and unconstitutional so that he will not have to suffer the same unreasonable intrusions again.
The defendants in this case are:
- The City of Jennings,
- Eduardo Mendoza, a patrolman of the Jennings Police Department,
- Christopher Bergeaux, a sergeant of the Jennings Police Department, and
- David Amrine, an officer of the Welsh Police Department.