HARVEY – Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand is facing a civil rights suit alleging that several of his officers used excessive force earlier this year when they wrongly arrested a Marrero senior in connection with a stolen car probe.
Robert Banks, 68, alleges he suffered injuries to his head, neck, back and both of his shoulders when he was taken into custody at his home in the early morning hours of Jan. 15, while officers were combing the neighborhood of his Marshall Drive home in search of a vehicle in question.
In his suit, Banks charges that after he answered a knock at his door from officers he was dragged down the stairs wearing nothing but his underwear. Banks adds he was in bed with his wife when the officers first arrived and only tried to walk away from them in order to get dressed.
The arresting officers have been identified in the lawsuit as Derek Adams and M. Layrisson. The suit also alleges that when Banks repeatedly asked officers what he had done wrong and why he was being arrested they only responded, "You know what you did."
At some point, Banks’ wife is alleged to have pleaded with officers to be careful with her already sick and feeble husband, but her pleas were largely ignored.
Banks has been described as fragile and “old for his age” by his attorney Gary W. Bizal.
"We believe they violated the rights of Mr. Banks by not asking any questions and just assuming everything that they did,” Bizal told the Louisiana Record. "You can’t just grab a guy out of his home and manhandle him. If they had asked a few questions before, maybe he doesn’t have all the injuries that he has to deal with now.”
The truck in Banks’ driveway that brought officers to his front door was later found to be owned by him, though someone had replaced his license plate with a stolen one. Theft charges officers initially made against him have since been dropped.
While Normand wasn’t actually on the scene of the Banks’ incident, he has been in the news of late stemming from what some have characterized as the department’s faulty handling of the Joe McKnight Jr. homicide investigation.
The former NFL star and local high school legend was gunned down earlier this month in an apparent road-rage shooting; Ronald Gasser was ultimately charged with manslaughter.
Critics have blasted Normand for moving so slowly in formally charging Gasser, prompting the sheriff to respond in a press conference that all of his detractors should be “ashamed” and that nothing about the incident was about race.
Normand later insisted that moving too quickly to arrest Gasser could have impacted the statements of witnesses officers were still seeking to question.
Meanwhile, reports have since emerged that Gasser was previously involved in a traffic related dispute that also turned violent.
In that incident, Gasser is accused of having followed another driver into a gas station and soon after began striking him.
As for the histories of the officers involved in the Banks’ case, Bizal said his team is awaiting more discovery to learn more about them and their records.
“On this night, at least, Mr. Banks swears that they were overly aggressive,” he said.