A 22-year-old African-American man died after a struggle with Louisiana county police. His death is now being ruled as a homicide, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office said.
Keeven Robinson died on May 10 after a car chase during an undercover drug operation by the county police. The 22-year-old black man, who had a gun in the car and was suspected of being in possession of heroin, was on the run from the police when he crashed his car into two Sheriff’s Office vehicle. He then fled on foot before jumping over several backyard fences before he was caught, said Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto.
The sheriff said Robinson embroiled in a struggle with the police, who managed to get him into handcuffs. However, at this point, he suddenly stopped breathing.
Paramedics took him to Ochsner Medical Center but he died there.
Last week, Lopinto said there was no indication that violence with the deputies led to Robinson’s death. Instead, he suggested investigators look into the man’s history of asthma, which may have contributed to his death. On that fateful day, officials warned about poor air quality in the area.
However, Robinson’s family questioned that explanation, saying they fear deputies had strangled him to death.
Sure enough, the coroner said the man died from “significant traumatic injuries” to his neck, which is consistent with someone grabbing, leaning or choking someone. He also classified the death as a homicide.
Later, when Lopinto was asked about whether it was in the county’s policies to use chokeholds on suspect, the sheriff replied, “From a policy standpoint, we don't train somebody to hit someone with a brick — but if you're fighting for your life and the brick's there, you hit somebody with the brick.”
“They were in a fight with this gentleman effecting an arrest,” he added. “Our police officers have to use force and are justified to use force on many occasions.”
However, this explanation also doesn’t quite hold water as Robinson’s gun was in his car and he could not pose much of a threat unarmed.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office does not use bodycams or dashcams.
The four drug bust agents have now been placed on administrative leave. Lopinto has also asked the Louisiana State Police and the FBI civil rights task force to join him in investigating how Robinson’s death occurred.
“They had to find out Keeven lost his life at the hands of another, and that's very, very hard for them,” said Hester Hilliard, the attorney for Robinson’s family said. “And now they have to move on to making funeral arrangements for this 22-year-old, who should not have died.”
A march was planned for Monday evening as protest for the use of excessive force on Robinson
"They're killing the children," Robinson's grandmother, Sheryl, told reporters. "Enough is enough."
Banner/Thumbnail credit: Sheriff's Office Jefferson Parish Louisiana