This is so tragic…
Donna Lou and Daren Parsa have filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, nearly one year to the day after the death of their 16-year-old son. Eric Parsa was pronounced dead after being detained by deputies outside a laser tag center in the city of Metairie — and the parents are blaming the police.
According to the lawsuit, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto III and seven deputies are accused of “negligence and excessive force” in addition to violating Eric’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Parsa, who had severe autism, was allegedly sat on by sheriff’s deputies for a combined total of nine minutes during an incident at the laser tag center, leading to his death on January 19, 2020.
In the lawsuit, first filed this week, Donna Lou and Daren claim their son had “a meltdown” while leaving the laser tag center, reportedly slapping his father and himself during a difficult moment. Seeing the altercation, the laser tag center manager called Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Pitfield, who had been providing security to the shopping center at the time.
Pitifeld and other deputies quickly arrived on scene, and according to the suit, they allegedly pinned Eric to the ground, eventually binding his hands and feet. Donna Lou and Daren claimed in the suit that they explicitly told deputies on scene that Eric has autism and had to be approached with special needs, but that did not appear to have taken place.
The suit claims Pitfield sat on Eric for more than seven minutes, at which point another deputy took over for several more minutes. Per the Washington Post, the lawsuit alleges that as many as seven deputies (!) eventually sat on Eric at one point or another, noting (below):
“[They were] sitting on, handcuffing, shackling, holding down, or standing by E.P. as he was restrained and held face down on his stomach against the hard surface of the parking lot.”
SEVEN deputies? For a 16-year-old kid? Come on, guys…
The suit further claims that there were several different points where Eric “was secured, was calm, and was not actively resisting,” at which point deputies should have gotten up and removed the pressure.
They didn’t do so, according to William Most, one of Eric’s parents’ lawyers, who told The New York Times (below):
“They should’ve taken the weight off of Eric Parsa’s back. They should have rolled Eric Parsa on to his side to ensure that he could continue to breathe. By then it was too late. He as dying.”
Donna Lou, a doctor, offered to help resuscitate her son only to be told to “stay back and let them do their job,” according to the outlet. Eric was eventually taken to a local hospital, where he went into cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead. The Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office declared his death was “accidental,” but they did note that “his prone position” had been a factor.
In a statement to People about the whole situation, the Sheriff’s Office blasted the lawsuit, saying:
“While the Sheriff’s Office understands that all deaths are cause for sadness and a time for grieving, this lawsuit is rife with false claims and malicious accusations against the first responding deputies.”
Meanwhile, Eric’s grieving mother held a press conference on Thursday in which she noted “not a day goes by” where she doesn’t grieve the loss of her son. She added:
“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. Unfortunately, it is our reality of a nightmare. [We] bring this lawsuit in hopes that Eric’s death will not be in vain and no other families will have to go through the same horror, loss and shock that we are experiencing.”
So, so sad…
As you can see (below) from WDSU News, there is some surveillance video of the incident itself:
It’s unclear at this point whether officers were wearing body cameras during the incident.
For now, the family will apparently move forward with their lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office. For their part, the cops have so far indicated that they will fight this in court. Hopefully, Eric’s family can get justice for his untimely, unnecessary death. Such an awful thing to have to go through.
It’s unimaginable to be a parent burying a 16-year-old child, only to then be blasted by your hometown law enforcement agency with taunts of “false claims and malicious accusations”?! Unreal…
Rest In Peace, Eric.
[Image via WDSU News/YouTube]