Police Department: Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and Gilbert LLP are representing Marrero resident Steven Maddox in a lawsuit against Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputies Geoffry Walker and Justin Labadie.
On February 13, 2020, Mr. Maddox was walking home after completing a full day of school and attending track and field practice. Mr. Maddox was engaged in no crime. He was not acting suspicious or odd. He was simply following the same routine he followed every school day. When he arrived home, Mr. Maddox rang the doorbell to his home a few times and waited for someone to answer. As was typical, Mr. Maddox waited outside for a few minutes.
Mr. Maddox heard some inaudible voice behind him. As he responded, Mr. Maddox heard the voice again – but this time he realized the voice was coming from a rapidly approaching police officer. At this point, Deputy Walker, who was accompanied by Deputy Labadie, was already on Mr. Maddox’s driveway, and as both Defendants made their way quickly toward Mr. Maddox, he heard Deputy Walker scream at him to “get on the wall.” Terrified, Mr. Maddox immediately obeyed.
Deputy Walker rushed up behind Mr. Maddox. He placed his hand against Mr. Maddox’s back so as to keep him up against the wall of his family home, so as to conduct a stop-and-frisk. During the trespass and subsequent stop, Mr. Maddox noticed that both Deputies were armed with guns and tasers.
At this point, Mr. Maddox’s father opened the door. The Deputies asked if Mr. Maddox lived at the address. Mr. Maddox’s father said yes. The Deputies let Mr. Maddox go inside his home, claiming that they had received a 9-1-1 call about a suspicious-looking person who had two backpacks and was trying to find something to break into.
What the Deputies told Mr. Maddox’s family was not the full story. The 9-1-1 caller did not know or identify the race of the alleged suspicious person he was reporting. Nor did the 9-1-1 dispatcher identify the alleged suspicious person’s race to the Deputies when dispatching the information. The 9-1-1 caller did not describe the purportedly suspicious individual as trying to find something to break into. Rather, the caller said that the individual had “circled his house around . . . two times, looking at car doors.”
The Deputies indicated that Mr. Maddox matched the description of the purportedly suspicious person. But Mr. Maddox did not match any aspect of the 9-1-1 caller’s description. The 9-1-1 caller (and the dispatcher) described the purportedly suspicious individual as wearing a white or grey hoodie. Mr. Maddox was wearing a neon green sweatshirt. The 9-1-1 caller said that the individual had circled his house and was looking at car doors, but Mr. Maddox was not doing that—he was standing outside his own house and waiting patiently at the front door. The 9-1-1 caller said the individual was wearing two book bags, but Mr. Maddox was carrying one backpack and one track bag, not two book bags. Nothing about Mr. Maddox’s conduct was suspicious. Mr. Maddox did the same thing he did every other day he came home from school after track practice.
The only thing the Deputies saw that made Mr. Maddox suspicious was that he was Black and in the area. They targeted him merely for standing outside his family home and being Black.
For months, Mr. Maddox and his family tried to get an apology from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. Each time, they were met with antagonistic denials that the Deputies had done anything wrong and evasive attempts to blame the 9-1-1 caller or Mr. Maddox’s neighbors. At no point did anyone in the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office take responsibility for targeting a Black minor at his own home.
The lawsuit asserts violations of Mr. Maddox’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officers.
The defendants in this case are:
- Geoffry Walker, a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy, and
- Justin Labadie, a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy.