A handicapped Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, woman is suing her local law enforcement agency, accusing one deputy of violating her civil rights when he used excessive force on her when responding to an altercation, she was involved in. The partially blind plaintiff claims the officer, who slammed her to the ground, has a history of doing similar acts to civilians while policing.
According to a lawsuit obtained by Atlanta Black Star and filed on Friday, Sept. 16, in the U.S. District Court in New Orleans, Shantel Arnold, Black, is suing Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Julio Alvarado, Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto III, and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office over the Sept. 20, 2021 altercation that violated her Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights.
Arnold is being represented in this case by state Sen. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans, and Derek Rovaris, Jr.
The complaint states the incident in question was a direct result of Arnold, who is a small woman of 4 feet 8 and weighing less than 100 pounds, getting jumped by a group of children.
According to ProPublica, around 2 p.m. on the September 2021 date of the incident, while Arnold was walking down the street near her family’s home, she was jumped by three boys.
The attack lasted several minutes, according to cellphone footage of the beating. The boys threw Arnold to the ground and assaulted her as a crowd gathered, laughing as they watched. At one point, she tried to defend herself with a stick, but to no avail. The boys continued to beat her, only stopping when Lionel Gray, her 71-year-old stepfather, chased the youngsters away.
Someone called 911 to report the fight, and Deputy Alvarado responded to the call going to Richard Avenue in front of the apartment complex. That is when he saw the disheveled and tattered Arnold walking home from the incident.
Despite being the victim, Alvarado zeroed in on Arnold and “demanded” that she speak to him. When she responded that she just wanted to leave the scene of the fight, he assaulted her, the lawsuit says.
A transcript of an interview around the incident quotes the young woman as saying, “I’m on my way home. I ain’t make it all the way to the block, the police come out of nowhere, swarming, getting me like, ‘Come here.’ I’m like, ‘What’s going on? I just got beat up by two children, what ya’ll doing?’”
“[Arnold] just wanted to go home,” the claim read. “At which point, Deputy Alvarado snatched Shantel Arnold by the arm and twisted it behind her back. … [he] then grabbed [her] by her hair, lifted her off the ground, and violently slammed her against the ground on multiple occasions.”
It continued, “Alvarado then placed Arnold onto her stomach and put his knee and body weight on her back, interrupting her breathing and blood flow.”
Arnold was then left “with serious bodily injuries.”
Arnold’s lawyers stated in addition to being diminutive size, Arnold also only has one eye after losing her left eye in a car accident prior to the assault, so she posed no threat to the officer. The lawsuit states “she does not wear a prosthetic eye, and it is obvious she is blind in her left eye.” Still, he attacked her.
The assault was witnessed by two of the young woman’s family members, Gray and Tony Givens, who both tried to beg the deputy to stop hurting her. Instead of stopping, he cursed them and threatened to beat them up and take them to jail.
The lawsuit states after brutally beating the woman, Alvarado also failed to render aid to her upon recognizing her injuries but handcuffed the young woman.
Someone captured the incident and uploaded it to social media, where it went viral and was picked up by several media outlets.
The only video came from bystanders, as the JPSO does not provide body or dash cameras for their deputies.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump posted about the incident, saying, “Jefferson Parish Sheriff Office deputy was captured on video repeatedly SLAMMING Shantel Arnold to the ground by her hair! This is absolutely horrifying and UNACCEPTABLE! An investigation has been opened into this officer’s actions. He must be held accountable!”
The video shows him yanking, slamming, and kneeling on her. At one point, Alvarado is holding Arnold by her braids, and he tosses her whole body onto the cement.
If it were not for the videos taken by witnesses, there would have been no proof that anything ever happened to Arnold. Alvarado never wrote a report of the incident.
“Deputy Alvardo admitted he marked up the call NAT (Necessary action taken) and did not write a report on the incident. It was not until the next day that Deputy Alvarado advised he changed the signal to a medical roll and a report would be written. Alvarado advised he did this because he felt it had to [be] done and it had nothing to do with the video that surfaced,” the lawsuit states.
The Internal Affairs Report indicates the deputy did not “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.”
The report found that Alvarado violated the JPSO written policies and procedures “for his failure to properly document the incident.”
Arnold and her legal team believe it goes a step further, alleging the deputy and the JPSO “conspired to cover up” his excessive force against the woman.
After the report was released, Nola.com reports, Alvarado was then suspended without pay for a week and placed on one-year probation. He was reprimanded not because of the assault on the woman, but because he did not write the report.
The complaint revealed there have been “numerous federal complaints” filed against the 17-year-law enforcement professional by African-Americans and other minorities, including a time he “pulled out his weapon” on a 14-year-old and his friend, grabbing the teen by his neck and slamming his head into the concrete.
In one of the depositions, he said at times he has to engage in “proactive patrols” in “high crime areas.” He said he “drums up [his] own work” by responding to 911 calls and other complaints, according to the lawsuit.
Now, Arnold is hoping the court of law can put an end to his menacing.
Arnold’s lawsuit also aims to shed light on the JPSO’s “long history of unreasonable, excessive, and unlawful uses of force against African-Americans and people of color.”
“This case presents a classic example of the failures of Sheriff Lopinto and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and their deliberate indifference and utter disregard for the use of excessive and unlawful force against African-Americans and minorities,” the complaint reads.
She is asking for a trial by jury and that the court declare that the deputy not only violated her civil rights but that it awards her compensation for her injuries, his violation of her civil rights, emotional distress, emotional injury, fear, pain, and suffering, continuing injury and permanent injury.
Arnold is further asking for a written admission of guilt and apology on the sheriff’s office’s official letterhead and for all of her lawyer fees to be met.
Lastly, she is asking him to be terminated or prevented from working in neighborhoods that are predominately Black.