The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office is now investigating the deputy after the video went viral and caused an uproar in New Orleans, a spokeswoman with the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana told The Washington Post. The officer has yet to be publicly identified, and it remains unclear whether he has been disciplined.
It is not known who filmed the video, but the footage remains the only video evidence of the Sept. 20 incident in Jefferson Parish, where sheriff’s deputies are not required to wear body cameras. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto III said last week the department agreed to an $8.7 million deal to buy 500 body cameras that his officers will be trained to use by the end of the year. Lopinto said at a recent meeting with the Jefferson Parish Democratic Executive Committee that his office did not have the budget for the body cameras until recently.
A spokesperson with the sheriff’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment Tuesday. Neither Arnold nor her stepfather, Lionel Gray, who witnessed the encounter, responded to requests for comment. It is unclear whether Arnold has an attorney or whether she plans to press charges against the deputy or sheriff’s office, according to the ACLU of Louisiana.
“This video depicts a Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputy engaged in horrid acts of brutality against an innocent woman,” Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, told The Post in a statement. The video had been viewed more than 284,000 times as of early Tuesday.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office remains one of the largest policing agencies in the country to not have body cameras at a time when the tool is now common nationwide. Outrage over police killings of Black men in recent years has prompted lawmakers and public officials to demand increased transparency and oversight of local departments. The Justice Department announced in June that it will require officers at its law enforcement agencies to wear body cameras when making planned arrests or serving search warrants, shifting to align with the policies practiced in most local departments.
The ACLU of Louisiana recently called on federal prosecutors to investigate the sheriff’s office in Jefferson Parish, bordering New Orleans, following an investigation by ProPublica and WRKF/WWNO revealing racial disparities in shootings by deputies and other examples of excessive force. More than 70 percent of people shot by deputies in the past eight years were Black, according to ProPublica, whereas Black people make up 27 percent of the parish’s population. The investigation also found that 12 of the 16 people who were killed after being shot or restrained by sheriff’s deputies in Jefferson Parish during that eight-year period were Black men.
Lopinto and multiple sheriff’s deputies are facing a federal lawsuit filed by the parents of Eric Parsa, a 16-year-old White boy with autism who died early last year after deputies allegedly sat on him for more than nine minutes. In 2018, four deputies with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office were accused of inflicting “significant traumatic injuries to the neck” of Keeven Robinson, a 22-year-old Black man who was arrested and later died. The deputies were not charged.
“It is no secret that the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office has a deep-rooted history of racial discrimination and cruelty toward residents of color,” Odoms told NOLA.com. “The harsh political reality is the sheriff of Jefferson Parish is wholly unaccountable to the people.”
At around 2 p.m. on Sept. 20, Arnold was walking near her family’s trailer home when she was allegedly attacked by three boys in the neighborhood for several minutes. Her family told ProPublica that she had become an easy target for bullies because she stood only 4-foot-8, weighed about 100 pounds and was missing her left eye from a previous car accident.
After Gray chased the boys away, Arnold, who had been laughed at by a crowd that surrounded her during the initial attack, stumbled down the road and then stood up. That’s when a police officer approached her and told her to stop, she later recalled to an internal affairs investigator.
“I’m on my way home. I ain’t make it all the way to the block, the police come out of nowhere, swarming, getting me like, ‘Come here.’ I’m like, ‘What’s going on? … What y’all doing?’ ”
She told the deputy she had been attacked and just wanted to go home. When she did not follow his demand, the sheriff’s deputy exited his cruiser, grabbed Arnold and threw her to the ground, Arnold’s uncle, Tony Givens, told investigators. Gray confirmed the account in an interview with internal affairs.
“She didn’t have a chance to pull away because, you know, this guy was strong,” Gray said. “He grabbed her arm, and some kind of move he made, and she went down to the ground.”
The video shows Arnold lying on her back as the deputy towers over her. At one point, he clenches her left wrist with one hand and grabs her left forearm with another. Then, he repeatedly lifts her body off the ground in a violent motion and slams her to the ground.
He is also shown grabbing her hair. A witness told ProPublica that the deputy ended up pulling out several of her braids from her scalp. The video ends with the deputy appearing to place a knee on Arnold’s chest.
“Somebody record that!” one woman is heard saying off-camera. “Y’all be tripping.”
Arnold, who was not charged with a crime, was taken to a hospital for her injures. She later told investigators that her injuries — bruises and scratches, a busted lip, recurring headaches — were because of the encounter with the deputy, not the boys.
Odoms told The Post that the incident captured on video was “yet another testament to the shocking frequency that JPSO targets and brutalizes innocent, unarmed members of the Black community.”
The ACLU of Louisiana said in a statement that the sheriff’s office adding body cameras was a “long overdue” move for an agency whose policies and practices “disproportionately subject Black people to excessive violence and in some cases, death.”
“JPSO’s failure to require body cameras for their deputies means that acts of violence like this one will continue,” Odoms said. “We must begin to implement tools that enhance law enforcement accountability, rather than conceal law enforcement abuses.”