NEW ORLEANS — The ACLU of Louisiana is suing the Louisiana State Police and the East Jefferson Levee District Police Department for killing Mr. Jabari Asante-Chioke – a Black man who was shot 24 times by police officers employed by both agencies. This is the seventh time ACLU-LA has sued Louisiana State Police in the past two years.
“Since launching our Justice Lab campaign two years ago, we’ve provided a substantive check on police misconduct in the state clarifying for the public and the courts the dire reality that Black people face when interacting with police,” said ACLU of Louisiana Legal Director Nora Ahmed. “But the painful truth is that Black people continue to be killed by police with stunning regularity. Mr. Asante-Chioke was slaughtered by ill-trained, ill-disciplined, and ill-supervised officers. His unfortunate death is yet another representation of the failure of law enforcement agencies to use appropriate de-escalation techniques when encountering people of color who are suffering from severe mental illness.”
Last November, Mr. Asante-Chioke, a 52-year-old Black man, was spotted by a concerned citizen at the intersection of Airline Drive and North Causeway Boulevard in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Mr. Asante-Chioke was visibly distressed and traveling along the highway on foot, carrying in his hands what was later identified as a gun and a knife. The passerby who saw Mr. Asante-Chioke thought he might be experiencing a mental health crisis and subsequently flagged down a police officer directing traffic around a nearby construction site.
The tragedy that ensued ended in a firing squad when Louisiana State Police and East Jefferson Levee District Police officers shot Mr. Asante-Chioke 24 times. The killing was an unjustifiably excessive application of deadly force, with many of the gunshots suffered by Mr. Asante-Chioke impacting him after he was disarmed, heavily wounded, and incapacitated. Mr. Asante-Chioke’s weapon was unloaded. He never fired a shot.
This is just one more example of how police encounters with people of color often end with fatal shootings, and how quick police officers are to use deadly force when Black and Brown people are involved. “Each year, so many people of color are killed by U.S. law enforcement, just like my father,” said Mr. Asante-Chioke’s daughter Malikah Asante-Chioke. “The reality is that every victim should have their name heard and their story told, but the lack of extensive media coverage of all police killings spreads the illusion worldwide that police brutality in this nation is an anomaly. We know that instead, it is the rule, and a source of fear, death, and anguish for communities of color and Black people in particular.”
The Louisiana State Police have a long history of violence, discrimination, and police misconduct against Black and Brown people, and the agency is currently under a pattern and practice investigation by the United States Department of Justice for engaging in racially motivated and discriminatory policing and excessive force.
Asante-Chioke v. Dowdle et al. brings 42 USC Section 1983 excessive force, wrongful death, and negligence claims against the officers, as well as a negligent supervision and training claim against the Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, Colonel Lamar A. Davis, the Chief of the East Jefferson Levee District Police, Robert Garner, and the State of Louisiana. The case is currently pending before the Eastern District Court of Louisiana.
Since its creation, ACLU of Louisiana’s Justice Lab has filed nearly 50 civil rights suits challenging local police departments, sheriffs’ offices, and the Louisiana State Police. Twenty-two of those cases were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, which has its seat in New Orleans. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office is the law enforcement agency that has been named the most as a defendant.