A woman with disabilities in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, has filed a lawsuit against her local police department, stating that one deputy violated her civil rights by using excessive force during a response to an altercation in which she was involved. According to the partially sighted plaintiff, the officer who slammed her to the ground has a history of using excessive force against civilians.
Atlanta Black Star has obtained a copy of a lawsuit filed on September 16 in U.S. District Court in New Orleans by a Black woman named Shantel Arnold against Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Julio Alvarado, Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto III, and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office for violating her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights during an incident on September 20, 2021.
Attorneys Gary Carter (D-New Orleans) and Derek Rovaris Jr. (R-Arnold) are representing Arnold.
According to the complaint, the incident occurred because Arnold, a tiny woman of 4 feet 8 and under 100 pounds, was jumped by a gang of kids.
Arnold was attacked by three boys as she walked down the street near her family’s home in the afternoon of September 2021, as reported by ProPublica.
Cellphone footage shows that the assault lasted for several minutes. Arnold was thrown to the ground and attacked by the boys as onlookers watched and laughed. She even tried using a stick to defend herself, but it was useless. The boys kept beating her up until her stepfather, Lionel Gray, 71, chased them off.
Deputy Alvarado was dispatched to Richard Avenue, outside the apartment complex, after a 911 caller reported a fight. That’s when he spotted a disheveled and battered Arnold making his way home from the scene of the crime.
Alvarado singled out Arnold and “demanded” that she talk to him, even though she was the victim. The lawsuit states that he assaulted her after she told him she just wanted to leave the scene of the fight.
An interview transcript from the time of the incident quotes the young woman as saying, “I’m on my way home. I didn’t even get to the end of the block before the cops descended upon me like a swarm of angry bees and demanded that I “come here.” And I’m like, “What the heck is going on here?” What are you doing? I was just beaten up by two kids.
The allegation stated, “[Arnold] just wanted to go home.” Deputy Alvarado then grabbed Shantel Arnold by the arm and twisted it behind her back. … Then, “[he] grabbed [her] by the hair, lifted [her] off the ground, and slammed [her] against the ground several times.”
It went on to say, “Alvarado then placed Arnold onto her stomach and pressed his knee and body weight on her back, squeezing her chest and cutting off her oxygen supply.”
By the end of it, Arnold had “serious bodily injuries.”
Arnold’s attorneys argued that she did not pose a threat to the police officer because she is short and because she lost her left eye in a car accident before the assault. According to the complaint, “it is obvious that she is blind in her left eye, and she does not wear a prosthetic eye.” In spite of this, he decided to assault her.
Gray and Tony Givens, two members of the young woman’s family, witnessed the assault and pleaded with the deputy to stop beating her. He continued to threaten to beat them up and throw them in jail rather than stop.
According to the complaint, after beating the woman severely, Alvarado instead handcuffed the young woman rather than helping her.
Someone took a video of it and posted it online, where it quickly gained popularity and was picked up by multiple news outlets.
Given that the JPSO does not issue body or dash cameras to their officers, all footage comes from onlookers.
Rights lawyer Ben Crump wrote online, “Jefferson Parish Sheriff Office deputy was captured on video repeatedly SLAMMING Shantel Arnold to the ground by her hair!” What is happening here is horrifying and cannot be tolerated. This police officer’s behavior is currently being investigated. That guy needs to answer for his actions.
As the clip shows, he repeatedly pulls, slams, and kneels down on her. There’s a scene where Alvarado has Arnold by the braids and he throws her body onto the pavement.
There would have been no evidence that anything untoward had happened to Arnold if it weren’t for the videos taken by witnesses. Even after thinking about it, Alvarado never put together a report.
Deputy Alvardo has admitted that he did not write a report on the incident and instead marked the call as “NAT” (Necessary action taken). Deputy Alvarado did not mention that he had changed the signal to a medical roll or that a report would be written until the following day. In response to the surfacing of the video, Alvarado “advised he did this because he felt it had to [be] done,” the lawsuit states.
A deputy failed to “notify his ranking officer regarding the incident” and “was instructed by Sergeant Canas, after speaking to Captain Guttuso, not to write a report after the fact because an investigation had been initiated,” according to the Internal Affairs Report.
According to the report, Alvarado broke JPSO policy “for his failure to properly document the incident.”
According to Arnold’s legal team, the claim “conspires to cover up” the deputy’s excessive force against the woman and the JPSO’s involvement in it goes even further.
Nola.com reports that Alvarado was suspended for a week without pay and given a year’s probation after the report came out. He got in trouble not for assaulting the woman but for failing to submit a report on the incident.
According to the complaint, the 17-year law enforcement veteran has been the subject of “numerous federal complaints” filed by African-Americans and other minorities, including one incident in which he “pulled out his weapon” on a 14-year-old and his friend, grabbing the teen by the neck and slamming his head into the concrete.
He testified in one of the hearings that he sometimes has to conduct “proactive patrols” in “high crime areas.” According to the complaint, he claimed that he “drums up [his] own work” by responding to 911 calls and other complaints.
Arnold is now seeking justice in the hopes that it will finally put an end to his threatening behavior.
The lawsuit filed by Arnold also seeks to shed light on the JPSO’s “long history of unreasonable, excessive, and unlawful uses of force against African-Americans and people of color.”
The complaint alleges that Sheriff Lopinto and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office “provide a classic example of the failures of Sheriff Lopinto and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office” by “using excessive and unlawful force against African-Americans and minorities.”
She wants a jury trial and the court to rule that the deputy violated her constitutional rights and to compensate her for the resulting injuries, as well as for the distress, injury, fear, pain, and suffering she has endured as a result of the deputy’s actions.
Arnold also demands that her legal fees be covered in full and that an official letter of confession and apology be written and sent to her on sheriff’s department letterhead.
Also, she wants him fired or kept from working in predominately Black areas.