In a shocking turn of events Friday afternoon, a Louisiana jury acquitted Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal of civil rights violations stemming from claims that he abused his power and tried to cover up numerous incidents of violence against African-American residents and inmates.
Several former narcotics detectives poured into a Shreveport courtroom last week to testify against their former boss — many of them admitting that abuse and excessive use of force was a regular part of their jobs. In fact, it was encouraged, Atlanta Black Star reports.
A former detective named James Comeaux testified that three drunken off-duty officers had beaten up two young Black men for fun; when Ackal learned of the incident, he chalked it up to a simple case of “n—– knockin.’ ” Another ex-officer testified that a supervisor pointed to a red stain on the floor next to suspect who was being questioned and said, “That’s from the last n—– I shot.”
“They were animals,” Comeaux, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to beating inmates and then lying about it, said of the narcotics team’s view of Black residents. “And they needed to be treated like animals.”
The department’s culture of racism and abuse was reportedly created, and oftentimes facilitated, by head honcho Ackal. One former detective even testified that the sheriff was sometimes present during incidents of violence — like the time he stood by as three deputies physically beat an inmate in the jail’s chapel following a contraband sweep. The chapel was chosen because there were no security cameras around.
Despite the damning testimonies, a jury still moved to clear Ackal of civil rights violations. Jurors delivered the stunning not-guilty verdict after just four hours of deliberation, according to The Advocate. The disgraced sheriff faced charges including conspiracy, deprivation of civil rights and other instances of misconduct stretching back to his first months in office in 2008.
“I’m elated,” Ackal said after the verdict, leaving the Shreveport courthouse with Geri Brown, president of the NAACP’s New Iberia chapter. “I thank the Lord almighty.”
“I’m not a crook and don’t intend to be one,” the sheriff added. “The prosecutors had the bad guys but they wanted my scalp.”
Ackal went on to state that the case only helped rid his department of “rogue” narcotics officers who were out to tarnish his name. He expressed joy at returning to Iberia Parish with a clean name and a “clean house.”