BATON ROUGE – East Baton Rouge
Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux faces a lawsuit after a now former prison deputy used pepper spray near Glen Oaks High School students and parents.
Gregory and Shontelle Griffin Mitchell,
the parents of one
of the Glen Oaks students and band members,
claim their son not only suffered physical injuries to his eyes, skin and body,
but severe emotional and mental anguish, too. Gregory Mitchell said his son is
moving along, but has not forgotten about the incident and wonders if an attack
of this nature will happen again. He also added that there are both good and
bad members of law enforcement.
occurred on April 2. The deputy was performing extra-duty work when Glen Oaks
band members and their parents were getting onto a bus after a “Battle of the
Bands” event when an impromptu and spontaneous song competition broke out
between Glen Oaks Band members and another school, according to the suit.
instructed to continue to board the buses and continued to do so. At that point
the deputy began to pepper spray band director Bobbie Bowman and
students, the suit alleges. The deputy was fired in May for multiple policy
violations, including conduct unbecoming, false statements and use of force,
sheriff’s office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said at the time.
Hicks declined to
comment on the suit filed in Baton Rouge state court.
team will likely defend by insisting the deputy is individually responsible for
the misconduct and is not the fault of the office,” Loyola
University law professor Bill Quigley told the Louisiana Record when asked how
the sheriff's office might defend its case.
One of the
Mitchells’ attorneys, Jill Craft, said her clients’ son and band members “were
doing nothing wrong and certainly did nothing to warrant being doused with
pepper spray.” Craft when on to say the incident is an example of what could
happen if an officer doesn’t get proper training. “Their day of music and
fellowship suddenly became a nightmare when an unidentified sheriff’s deputy
pepper sprayed the crowd of kids — for no reason.”
“Training is key,”
Quigley told the Record. “Every law enforcement leader will admit their
officers need a lot more training. The question in this case is whether the
officer was given adequate instruction in crowd control and the proper use of
force – these are always issues in these cases.”
The suit is seeking
damages and has been assigned to state District Judge Mike Caldwell.
“Most civil cases
end with cash settlements,” Quigley says. “I would expect this case will have
fights over responsibilities, determining exactly what happened, some
depositions about the extent of the damages and it will end with a cash