Two deputies fired over video fracas

Two Terrebonne Parish deputies were dismissed and a rookie lawman reprimanded Monday in connection with an arrest that went bad in Dulac. 

The action stemmed from allegations of misconduct against Deputy Joseph Cehan III, who challenged the 18-year-old suspect to fight him and uncuffed his hands, after yanking him out of a patrol car. 

The other deputy was dismissed for covering up the incident. The third was reprimanded for not reporting it. Neither of those two deputies attempted to stop Cehan’s actions, which were captured on video that has been viewed in excess of 100,000 times on Facebook.

Cehan, 25, was hired in June of 2014 as a patrol deputy. Charles David Cook Jr., 26, was hired in July 2013 as a correctional officer and transferred to the patrol division in August of 2014.

They were among three deputies who responded to 7077 Grand Caillou Road at about 6:45 p.m. Saturday in response to a complaint that Christopher Lee Verdin had struck his mother’s dog with a crescent wrench, fired a .45 caliber pistol towards the dog, and then continued firing the gun into nearby forest where two siblings were chopping wood. 

Verdin’s mother was the complainant.

The deputies arrived about a quarter mile from the home and apprehended Verdin without incident. They disarmed him, placed him, handcuffed, into Cehan’s patrol unit, and then drove to the home where the incident occurred.

According to a report initially made by Cehan, the cuffed teen began spitting at him in the patrol car and threatened to fight, challenging him to remove the handcuffs and his badge.

Video shot by shrimp fisherman Frankie Duplantis shows Cehan screaming and cursing at Verdin through the open back door of the patrol unit, then forcing him out of the car.

View Duplantis’s video HERE. WARNING: Strong language.

Cehan then is seen removing the cuffs from Verdin and challenging him to make good on his threat, but Verdin refuses to strike the officer.

Cook observes the confrontation but does nothing. He does order Duplantis to walk away from the area. Duplantis does so, but continues recording.

“We don’t sink to the same level as the criminals,” Sheriff Jerry Larpenter said, after the firings were announced. “You already have the badge and its power to do the legal and right thing if somebody acts stupid in public. The action of these deputies that was shared on social media does not reflect the attitude, training and professionalism of our office and will not be tolerated.“

Cook’s body camera remained on at all times during Cehan’s confrontation with Verdin, Larpenter said. Cehan’s camera – which was on and captured the arrest when deputies first arrived – was not on during the confrontation. 

Public opinion, gauged through postings on social media, appears to support the deputy and even suggests that he should have engaged in further misconduct.

Larpenter said, however, that the actions were not something that would be tolerated in his department. Suggestions that stress of patrol work may have played a role in Cehan’s behavior were dismissed by the sheriff. Such actions are the opposite of what deputies are trained to do, he said, noting that his deputies receive twice the amount of training required by the state.

“Most of the time if you follow your training you will never have any problems in law enforcement,” he said. The deputies did not follow proper procedure, Larpenter said, from the beginning. Upon his arrest Verdin should have been taken immediately to the jail, Larpenter said, rather than to the residence of a complainant who already said she feared for her life.

Verdin was booked at the Terrebonne Parish jail for illegal use and carrying of a weapon, aggravated cruelty to animals, and on three warrants for failure to appear in court regarding traffic citations.

He is being held in lieu of $75,000 bond.

A formal board of inquiry was assembled by Larpenter Monday morning and they made their recommendations to the sheriff after viewing all available evidence.

Frankie Duplantis, whose daughter, Frankie Jo, is Verdin’s girlfriend, said he has nothing against police officers and supports them. But it was important, he said for the video to be made public. Frankie Jo Verdin challenged the report that her boyfriend was using methamphetamine and said that he never used the drug. His former employer also said that he was not known to use methamphetamine. No drugs were found in his possession at the time of his arrest,

The deputy’s father, Joey Cehan Jr., called Duplantis Saturday night and asked him to take the video down, but Duplantis refused.

Joseph Cehan III

Charles Cook Jr.