JPSO deputy making arrest ignites controversy

A video of a Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputy arresting a man inside a River Ridge home Sunday afternoon went viral when it was posted on the Internet, creating a storm of controversy among people who have viewed it.

The Sheriff’s Office said the deputy responded appropriately when Donrell Breaux tried to avoid being issued a misdemeanor summons for disturbing the peace.

Deputies were called to the 200 block of Marmandie Avenue about 2:50 p.m. in response to a 911 call from a man who said neighbors were cursing at him.

The man told deputies he, his wife and his children were sitting outside their home when they heard people next door cursing and possibly smoking marijuana, said Col. John Fortunato, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

When the man asked the people to stop cursing, Breaux directed “profanity-laced sentences” at the man and his family, leading them to feel threatened and leading to the emergency call, Fortunato said.

Attempts Thursday to contact Breaux were unsuccessful. No one answered a knock on the door at the home.

As the deputy prepared to issue Breaux a summons for disturbing the peace, he could smell the odor of marijuana, Fortunato said.

When he asked for ID, Breaux said he had none on him but might have some inside the home and began to walk away, Fortunato said. The deputy followed Breaux toward the door and told him he was under arrest, at which point Breaux tried to close the door on the deputy, Fortunato said.

At that point the video begins.

It lasts for about 2½ minutes and shows the deputy forcing his way into the home as Breaux backs up and falls on a sofa, asking for the deputy’s name and the reason he is under arrest.

“For resisting an officer,” the deputy says.

At one point during the struggle, Breaux pleads with the deputy not to shoot him as he reaches for his belt, but it appears the deputy instead is reaching for his radio.

Breaux was booked with disturbing the peace by cursing, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer.

Fortunato said there is no internal investigation of the incident and the deputy was not reprimanded because Sheriff Newell Normand does not believe he acted inappropriately.

The video was posted to Facebook on April 1 and YouTube on April 2. The Facebook view had more than 37,000 views by Thursday evening, while one YouTube video had more than 73,000 views.

Most of the comments on the videos criticize the deputy for being too forceful and for entering the home without a warrant.

Dane Ciolino, a Loyola University law professor, said he viewed the video and did not think the deputy used excessive force. However, he said, the deputy should not have entered the home without a warrant. “That’s what the Fourth Amendment requires,” he said.

The deputy should have left the scene and returned with a warrant, he suggested.

“This was a misdemeanor arrest. The real question is should he have been in the home in the first place,” Ciolino said. “Houses are typically considered safe ground.”