CASE #5 – Thomas v. Tewis et al. (EDLA)

Parish: Jefferson

Police Department: East Jefferson Levee District Police Department

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, alongside Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, is now representing Ms. Deanna Thomas—a Black woman presently experiencing homelessness, who was arrested for camping on a levee in Laketown Park. During the arrest, while Ms. Thomas was retrieving her belongings, one officer handcuffed her and, while she was still handcuffed, knocked her to the ground. Unable to break her fall, she was slammed to the ground face-first, which caused her glasses to snap in half against her face. The force of the fall caused Ms. Thomas to unintentionally release her bowels and other serious physical and emotional injury. This brutal encounter did not end here. The officer then knelt with his full body weight on Ms. Thomas’s back, grabbed her left arm, and lifted it, twisting her left shoulder. The officer refused Ms. Thomas’s pleas to loosen the excessively tight handcuffs even as her wrists began to swell due to her Lupus flaring up. She was then pulled up by her handcuffs behind her back, causing more strain to her already injured shoulders, and he pushed her into the back of the police car. Ms. Thomas, who was 54-years old at the time, was not given an opportunity to catch her balance and fell over into the police car. Just as alarming, another officer stood several feet away and failed to intervene or make any attempt to protect Ms. Thomas as she was enduring such a vicious encounter.

The complaint accuses the two officers of using excessive force in violation of Ms. Thomas’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, among other tort claims, such as assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. It seeks damages for the physical and emotional harm that Ms. Thomas endured, including her broken eyeglasses, lacerations to her face, pain to her wrist and shoulder, and enduring psychological and emotional distress.

Because of the officers’ wrongful conduct this day—both in excessive force against Ms. Thomas and in failing to intervene in the constitutional deprivation—the complaint alleges that both of these officers should be held liable for the harm that Ms. Thomas endured.

The defendants in the case are:

  • Officer Robert Tewis, officer with the Eastern Jefferson Levee District Police Department
  • Officer Kirt Arnold, officer with the Eastern Jefferson Levee District Police Department

The complaint is online here.

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