A Black man beaten by a white police officer in Jackson, Louisiana, at a traffic stop has settled an excessive force and discrimination lawsuit with the help of the ACLU.
The lawsuit settlement was announced by the ACLU on April 4, according to the Louisiana Illuminator.
According to the lawsuit, Craig White was beaten by Officer Travis Clay Depew on Aug. 6, 2020, at a traffic stop over Depew’s allegedly having an issue with White being in a long-term relationship with a white woman.
Depew pulled White over at approximately 8 p.m. on Charter Street in Jackson. Depew took White’s license and registration before asking him about his common-law wife.
“What is your old lady up to these days?” asked Depew. “I don’t know,” replied White. “She’s at home, I guess.”
Depew then ordered White out of his vehicle and tried to search him. White said that Depew lunged at him and began to “aggressively touch” him, so White stepped back and said “No.” That’s when Depew attacked White, according to the lawsuit.
“Defendant Depew quickly escalated the incident by violently tackling Plaintiff White to the ground for no reason, slamming his head into the pavement and leaving Plaintiff White with lasting injuries.”
The lawsuit also contends that Depew should have never been hired by the Jackson Marshal’s Office after he was terminated from the Pointe Coupee Police Department in 2017 and “charged with the crimes of stalking and malfeasance in office.”
Depew continued his troubling misconduct on the job following his attack on White. The police officer was accused of choking a Black teenager on Feb. 5, 2021, in the parking lot of the Main Street Market gas station. Depew also called the teen the N-word repeatedly during the assault and asked him if he wanted to fight as he pulled him out of a vehicle by his neck. Depew was arrested for the crime the following May and charged with malfeasance while in office and simple battery.
According to witnesses on the scene, another police officer had to pull Depew off the teenager to get him to stop choking the then-16-year-old. The teenager’s attorney, Ashley Greenhouse, said that they were thankful for the actions of the second officer.
“We wouldn’t be here without him so we’re just thankful for that involvement of the other officer because this could have ended really bad,” said Greenhouse, adding that Depew’s body camera was not on during the attack. “He was equipped, but there’s no video from it of course, and we’re not surprised by it.”
Depew was convicted of simple battery, a misdemeanor, for assaulting the teenager. The family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Jackson Marshal’s Office and Depew, which is currently pending.
In October 2020, Depew allegedly fractured Tyquan Vessell’s face after beating him with a flashlight and later charged Vessell with a battery of a police officer and resisting arrest.
One month later on Nov. 4, Depew violently attacked Chasity Harveston in front of her then-7-year-old daughter after he’d pulled her over for a traffic violation. According to a lawsuit later filed against the police department, Depew “grabbed and squeezed her breasts” during the arrest. Depew also allegedly tried to choke Harveston and caused injuries to her arms, knees, legs, and hands.
In the police report, Depew filled out on White, he claimed that he pulled him over for texting while driving and admitted to beating White unconscious.
“It was at that point I noticed Craig appeared to be unconscious,” he wrote. “I then observed some blood coming from Craig’s head, and I heard what sounded like snoring. It was also found that during Craig’s resistance my Jackson-issued body-worn camera was damaged.”
White’s injuries were so egregious that he couldn’t work for six months and still suffers from recurring headaches, sleep loss, vision problems, reduced range of motion in his right arm, anxiety and depression.
“This case represents another disturbing occurrence in a string of troubling incidents where Black men in the United States are subject to unconstitutional stops, unlawful searches, and excessive force at the hands of law enforcement,” read White’s lawsuit. “In this case, as in others, in order to prevent the focus of the incident from revolving around officer misconduct, the officer fabricates criminal charges that spuriously claim the Black man at issue resisted arrest and battered the officer.”
White’s lawsuit against the Jackson Marshal’s Office was filed on his behalf by the ACLU of Louisiana’s Justice Lab initiative launched in 2020. The Justice Lab partners have filed 50 cases throughout the state for excessive force, racial profiling, unreasonable searches, stops and seizures and false arrest violations. White’s settlement amount was not released.
John McLindon represented Depew for attacking the 16-year-old and said his client claimed he was trying to stop a gang riot when he violated the teenager.
“I think Clay was justified in what he did,” said McLindon. “He’s frustrated that everyone is saying, ‘Oh, you’re doing all this bad stuff.’ He said, ‘I’m arresting bad guys.’”
Ron Haley is representing the family of the teenager in their civil lawsuit and said Depew is a symptom of a police force that keeps bad cops employed.
“The same system that protects them in Pointe Coupee and Jackson is the same system that protects them in New Orleans and Baton Rouge,” said Haley. “This person was obviously unfit to carry a badge and a gun.”