The American Civil Liberties Union sued New Orleans police chief and the police department Wednesday on behalf of a New Orleans man who said he was brutalized by a group of officers.
The lawsuit is the latest bad news for a city struggling with crime while it recovers from 2005's Hurricane Katrina. Earlier this month, the latest FBI figures said the 162 murders in 2006 made the city far bloodier than any other in the United States.
New Orleans' murder rate and the aggressive policing policies in response have given some officers the idea they can ignore people's constitutional rights, the ACLU said.
The lawsuit says Steven Elloie was bruised and scraped, his wrists were bruised, and he had a black eye and other injuries from being beaten, kicked, dragged by handcuffs and shocked by an electric stun gun on June 23, 2006.
"We're asking for damages," ACLU attorney Katie Schwartzmann said Wednesday. "But the main objective is to try to change the way the police handle these situations."
The suit says six to 10 police officers forcefully searched the Sportsman's Corner Bar, where Elloie was manager. When he offered help, he was thrown against a wall and severely beaten and kicked. While he was on the floor, officers handcuffed him and shocked him twice with a 50,000-volt stun gun, the lawsuit alleges.
When Orleans Parish Prison refused to admit Elloie because of his injuries, he was treated at a hospital, Schwartzmann said.
Elloie filed a complaint, which the police public integrity bureau eventually classified as "not sustained."
The complaint triggered a lengthy investigation in which a number of people were interviewed, said Deputy Chief Marlon Defillo, who heads the Public Integrity Division.
Although Defillo refused to confirm the result of the investigation, he said he believed it was appropriate. He refused to comment on the suit, which he had not seen.
Police Superintendent Warren Riley did not return a call for comment.