In deputy killing of Modesto Reyes, mother files wrongful death suit against JPSO sheriff | Courts
Two days after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a Black man under disputed circumstances in Marrero. The killing sparked protests, including a heated clash between deputies and demonstrators trying to march up the off-ramp to the elevated West Bank Expressway in Gretna last June.
Now, the mother of Modesto Reyes has filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Lopinto, alleging her son was wrongfully killed by being shot in the back while lying on the ground.
Lopinto has said that Reyes was pointing a gun at deputies. The outcome of the wrongful death lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on Tuesday could hinge on eyewitness accounts, video from another deputy’s stun gun and dueling autopsy reports.
A shooting last month that left a Black welder dead in Marrero after he bolted from deputies was only the latest episode of fatal force by Jef…
Reyes, 35, was a welder who had survived the October 2019 collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans. The lawsuit describes him as a popular musician and a “hard-working, successful, ambitious young man.”
Deputies said that Reyes fled from a traffic stop in Marrero on May 27, 2020, and that during a foot chase, he tripped and fell. At a press conference last year, Lopinto said that Reyes, with a gun in each hand, rolled over and pointed at least one gun at a deputy in front of him, who responded by shooting and killing Reyes.
Another deputy behind Reyes had unholstered a Taser, which automatically triggered the device’s video camera. Because of the angle of the video, it doesn’t capture Reyes raising a weapon, but the Sheriff’s Office says it does confirm that Reyes was armed.
The Sheriff’s Office has screened the Taser video for journalists, but hasn’t released it to the public or Reyes’ family.
In the lawsuit filed in federal court, Serella Rowland claims that Reyes only ran because he feared for his life after watching the graphic video of Floyd’s death, which was already generating national headlines.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto and attorneys for the family of the man slain by one of his deputies traded interpretations of dueling au…
Her suit claims that contrary to Lopinto’s account, Reyes never rolled over and was flat on the ground when the first shots were fired. Meanwhile, three eyewitnesses claim that Reyes only had a cellphone, and that one of the deputies involved was “harassing residents in the neighborhood earlier in the day,” according to the lawsuit, which does not name the witnesses.
Rowland’s suit, filed by attorneys Chris Murell, Ron Haley and Dedrick Moore, says an independent autopsy proves that Reyes was only shot in the back.
However, Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich has said that his office’s report found that one round entered through Reyes’ forearm, and that other rounds entering through Reyes’ back were consistent with the sheriff’s account because the deputy who fired was standing over him.
The suit, which has been assigned to Chief Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown, comes amid continuing debate over police brutality and law enforcement transparency.
On Thursday, hundreds of demonstrators rallied at the state Capitol in Baton Rouge to demand justice for Ronald Greene, after the release of body-worn camera footage showing Louisiana State Police troopers punching, stun-gunning and dragging the Black motorist while he was shackled before his death in Union Parish in 2019.
Meanwhile, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, which has nearly 1,500 employees in total, remains the largest policing agency in the state without body cameras. Lopinto says they’re too expensive. The New Orleans Police Department has attached cameras to patrol officers since 2014, and the Gretna Police Department on May 23 received a $125,000 grant from the Jefferson Parish Council to help cover a five-year lease for the devices.
More than two years after Keeven Robinson was fatally choked during a struggle with Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office narcotics officers, Jeff…
Unlike the Sheriff’s Office, the NOPD has what is known as a “critical incident” video policy, which requires the swift release of video of high-profile incidents like police shootings under most circumstances. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office also has not released the names of the deputies involved in shooting Reyes, another standard NOPD practice.
Rowland’s lawsuit states that 12 men and boys have died during arrests or pursuits involving the Sheriff’s Office since 2012, making Reyes’ death “part of a continuing pattern, custom, and practice of JPSO under the direction and supervision of Sheriff Lopinto. Rather than address these issues, Sheriff Lopinto continues to ignore them and attempt to cover up the truth.”
The Sheriff’s Office declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
A demonstration against police brutality in Jefferson Parish turned chaotic for several moments Tuesday afternoon when a small group of protes…