NEW ORLEANS – The parents of a teenager with severe autism who died last year after meeting MPs from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office have sued the sheriff’s office, alleging it was responsible for the actions of seven officers who killed the Holding back teenagers undercover. Handcuffed position for more than nine minutes while attempting to arrest him.
Eric Parsa, 16, of Destrehan, passed out and later died after being detained outside a laser tag in Metairie by MPs on January 19, 2020.
“We never thought our 16-year-old special needs son would die in front of our eyes and in the hands of law enforcement,” said Eric Parsa’s mother, Donna Lou Parsa, as she cried during a press conference over videoconference late last week.
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In a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in New Orleans, Parsa and her husband Daren accused MPs of using excessive force – body weight, gagging, and neck holding and restraint – on teenagers with developmental disabilities without taking the basic steps to ensure the teen could breathe.
The family demands an unspecified amount of damages and punitive damages.
“You knew he was unarmed. Nevertheless, they insisted on holding back dangerously and forcibly (Eric Parsa), without properly monitoring his condition, until they killed him, ”the lawsuit says.
The sheriff’s office said the suit was “full of false claims and malicious allegations”.
“While the sheriff’s office is deeply saddened by this unfortunate loss of life, it does not intend that the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies be slandered and defamed by those who seek to benefit from this unfortunate situation,” the agency said in a statement .
The Parsa family was just finishing an outing on the Laser Tag of Metairie on Veterans Memorial Boulevard when Eric Parsa experienced a “breakdown,” the lawsuit said, described as a “storm” in the brain that can lead to self-harming or aggressive behavior .
In a corporate surveillance video released by the Parsa family lawyers, Eric Parsa is seen repeatedly hitting the head before hitting his father. The two fight about four minutes before deputy Chad Pitfield arrives.
Pitfield was off duty but was working on a security detail for Westgate Shopping Center, the mall where the laser tag business is located.
Shortly after Pitfield’s arrival, Eric Parsa can be seen in the video where he meets himself, his father, and then Pitfield, who throws Eric Parsa to the ground. Pitfield then sits on Eric Parsa’s abdomen and tail and tries to handcuff the teen. The lawsuit said Pitfield weighed over 300 pounds, as did Parsa.
Donna Lou Parsa kneeled beside her son for several minutes as Pitfield stayed on the teen and other MPs arrived. At some point, Eric Parsa starts fighting again and calls on the other MPs to try together to hold him down.
“In the end, there were a total of seven JPSO MPs who sat on it, handcuffed, cuffed, held down, or stood by (Eric Parsa) when he was held and pressed face down on his stomach against the hard surface of the parking lot.” the lawsuit says.
During the nine minutes and six seconds that Eric Parsa was held in the prone position, none of the MPs placed the youth in a “rest position” by straightening him or rolling him on his side, although there were several occasions when he was safe and calm the family alleged in the lawsuit.
“It was only when his body went limp and he urinated on himself that the MPs rolled him into a ‘rest position’. It was too late by then, ”the lawsuit said.
The Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office has not publicly disclosed the cause of death in this case. According to legal proceedings, the teen died of “agitated delirium due to an acute psychotic episode related to a severe autistic spectrum disorder and disorder of disorder,” according to the Coroner’s Office.
The autopsy listed the following factors: abnormal obesity, an enlarged heart, and the prone position. The coroner’s office ruled the teenager’s death accidental, the lawsuit said.
But the Parsa family lawyers do not believe it fits the definition of someone experiencing excited delirium and said death should be classified as murder.
“Eric Parsa died as a direct result of the actions of the JPSO MPs,” the lawsuit said.
Sheriff’s Office officials say they were trying to control outbreaks of a violent teenager and prevent him from attacking his parents and first responders.
“The case focuses on a highly autistic teenager who was diagnosed with numerous other mental illnesses that led to frequent violent outbreaks,” the statement said. “The teenager hit and bit his own father and caused serious bloody injuries.”
The Parsa family is represented by William Most and Andrew Clarke.
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