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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Nine Minutes and Six Seconds in Metrairie

Allyson Waller at NYT:
The parents of an autistic teenager who died last year after an encounter with sheriff’s deputies in Jefferson Parish, La., filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday, claiming that deputies who were trying to restrain him had sat on him for a total of more than nine minutes, leading to his death.

The suit, filed in United States District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana, came a year after the death of the teenager, Eric Parsa, who had severe autism. Eric, 16, died on Jan. 19, 2020, after being held down, sat on and handcuffed by deputies in a shopping center parking lot after he had an autism-related meltdown, an outburst resulting from emotional or sensory overload, according to lawyers representing his parents, Daren Parsa and Donna Lou.

In the lawsuit, Dr. Parsa and Dr. Lou charge that the authorities exhibited negligence and used excessive force while also violating their son’s civil rights and his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Never did we ever think that our 16-year-old son with special needs would die in front of our eyes at this age and in the hands of law enforcement,” Dr. Lou said at a news conference on Thursday with her husband and their lawyers. “Unfortunately, it is our reality of a nightmare.”

From the complaint:

1. This case involves the tragic death of a 16-year-old severely autistic child, (E.P.), while in the custody and care of deputies with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO) in the parking lot of the Westgate Shopping Center in Metairie, La. on January 19, 2020.

2. E.P. was the only child of Donna Lou and Daren Parsa, both of whom were present when he died before their eyes. He was held down in a prone position, on his stomach, handcuffed, shackled, arms and legs held down, head, shoulder and neck encircled by the arm of a deputy, with JPSO deputies applying their own body weight as a restraint, while he was suffering from an acute sensory episode or “outburst” related to and caused by his severe autism.

3. The JPSO deputies knew that E.P. was obese. They knew that he was autistic and a “special needs child.” They knew he had been involved in recent physical exertion. They knew E.P. was in a crisis situation and that the family needed help. They knew he was unarmed. Yet they persisted in dangerously and forcefully restraining E.P. without appropriately monitoring his condition, until they killed him.


221. In total, E.P. had been held in a face-down, prone position, under the body weight and physical pressure of deputies sitting on his back for a total of nine minutes and six seconds.