The latest in a string of guilty pleas related to a federal investigation into inmate beatings point to a continued pattern of abuse by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Since 2008 over 30 civil lawsuits have been filed against the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office. Five inmates have died while in Sheriff’s Office custody. The lawsuits allege a variety of misconduct including excess force, sexual assault, improper medical care of inmates, and deaths.
Most recently, Jason Comeaux and David Hines have plead guilty in the investigation Monday, March 7th.
David Hines has admitted that on March 14, 2014 he was called by a Narcotics supervisor and ordered to report to the office of a ‘high ranking IPSO official.’ The official told Hines and another Narcotics agent that a man identified as R.T. was believed to have assaulted one of his elderly relatives. Hines and the other Narcotics agent were told to “take care of R.T.” by the official. They located R.T., who was hiding in the bathroom of an apartment. When R.T. left the bathroom at the officer’s instructions he was pinned to the ground. Hines and the Narcotics agents proceeded to strike him with their knees in his back and side several times and unnecessarily hit him with a baton in the back of the legs while he posed no threat to the officers and was restrained and compliant. Hines also admits to filing a false police report justifying the excessive use of force and purposefully not admitting that he and the other Narcotics agent beat R.T. unprovoked and at the instruction of the ‘high ranking IPSO official’.
Jason Comeaux, a deputy with the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office since 2008, has plead guilty to being involved in the beating of Anthony Daye at the Iberia Parish Jail (IPJ) in April 2011. In his statement regarding the incident, Comeaux admits to being called to the IPJ to assist in a search for contraband. He was with a ‘high ranking IPSO official’ and another IPSO supervisor when they learned that Daye, a pre-trial detainee, had been causing trouble. The ‘official’ was angered and instructed Comeaux to “take care” of Anthony Daye. Comeaux and another Narcotics agent took Daye to the jail chapel. The chapel was known to be an area within the facility that did not have surveillance. Once inside the chapel, Comeaux and other Narcotics agents punched and assaulted Anthony Daye with their batons despite the fact that he was surrounded by officers, compliant, and not posing a threat to anyone. There were multiple officers, including the ‘high ranking IPSO official’ present. No one attempted to intervene or stop the assault. Comeaux further admitted that when he learned that Daye was suing for unjustified use of force he met with a senior IPSO employee and informed the employee that he had participated in beating Anthony Daye at the instruction of the ‘high ranking IPSO official’. The senior IPSO employee told Comeaux to “fix” his story and not to tell the representative of a state associate the truth about what happened to Daye. Comeaux and the other officers presented fabricated testimony for the depositions to cover up the beatings and prevent further investigation into their actions.
Comeaux is not the first officer to admit wrong doing involving the beating of Anthony Daye in the unmonitored jail chapel. There are a total of eight officers who have pled guilty to participating in abuse of inmates relating to the April 2011 contraband search. The ‘high ranking IPSO official’ has not been named, but has been in mentioned in multiple accounts regarding chapel beating.
In addition to these incidents, the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office has had its fair share of unwanted attention. The 2014 death of Victor White from a gunshot while in the back of a IPSO police car and the video of an inmate being attacked by an Iberia Parish corrections officer and police dog while lying on the ground are additional instances of alleged abuse and violations of the Sheriff’s office.