Viral video raises questions about arrest

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

An internal affairs board composed of three seasoned police officers will meet Monday to evaluate the actions of a Terrebonne Parish deputy, whose alleged misconduct in connection with a Dulac gun possession arrest was recorded by a bystander, whose Facebook post of the incident reached 54,000 views by Sunday morning.

“We are pulling all the tapes and there will be an internal investigation,” Sheriff Jerry Larpenter said about the allegations against Deputy Joey Cehan, who has been on the force since 2012. “We don’t tolerate that. We have never had any trouble with this officer before, that’s not his normal behavior. But you never cross that line and lower yourself.”

Deputies are required to keep their body cameras in the “on” position whenever they are in contact with the public. That means in addition to the Facebook video and another that was shot by a different bystander, there should be three other views shot directly with police bodycams. There has been some speculation among other officers as to whether Cehan’s camera was on during the confrontation. Larpenter said he will know for sure Monday.

“If he didn’t have his camera on that’s reason for another disciplinary action.”

The video, shot by shrimp fisherman Frankie Duplantis, shows a confrontation between the deputy, Joseph Cehan, and 19-year-old Christopher Lee Verdin Jr., some time between 6:45 and 7 p.m. Saturday. Cehan appears to be forcibly removing the already-handcuffed Verdin from the back of his patrol car in the youth’s family’s driveway during a heated exchange, then removing the handcuffs he had placed on the suspect.

The impression garnered from the video and the narrative of Duplantis is that Cehan was challenging Verdin to make good on a threat to assault him. There are no indications that the deputy or the suspect were injured.

A department spokesman, Maj. Malcolm Wolfe, said that at 6:45 p.m. Saturday deputies were called to 7077 Grand Caillou Road by Verdin’s mother, who reported that he had struck the family’s dog in the head with a crescent wrench, then pulled a .45 caliber pistol from his waistband and fired twice at the animal. She locked herself inside of her home as her son allegedly fired shots into a nearby wood, and reported that he was high on methamphetamine. She also told deputies that she was in fear for her life.

When deputies arrived they found Verdin walking near the 7100 block of Grand Caillou Road, about a quarter mile from the residence. Deputies handcuffed and disarmed Verdin quickly once they encountered him, apparently without incident.

The pistol, along with an extra clip, was recovered from his person.

Deputies then drove Verdin back to the family home to continue their investigation.

According to Wolfe, Verdin “was out of control as he was kicking the door and spitting.”

“A deputy then opened the door of the patrol car in order get Verdin to stop,” Wolfe said. “Verdin refused to stop kicking and spitting, therefore he was being ordered out of the patrol car. The deputy was instructing Verdin to get out of this patrol car to be placed in the second patrol car and he refused. Verdin and the deputy exchanged curse words towards one another.”

The father of Verdin’s girlfriend, shrimp boat captain Frankie Duplantis, used his phone to video the exchange.

In the Duplantis video, Cehan is seen leaning into the open back door of Sheriff’s Office unit 110, and 130-pound, 5’6” Verdin can be heard challenging him to remove the cuffs.

“You want me to take this badge off me bro?“ an obviously agitated Cehan responds. “Take this f—- badge off and these handcuffs off and see what the f— you’re really going to do. You ain’t s—, you ain’t s—. I f— dare you. Stick your f—- hands on me again. Do it. Do it again.”

Another deputy stands close by but does and says nothing. Cehan yanks Verdin out of the car and takes off the handcuffs. A noticeably chastened Verdin is then walked away from the car.

The second deputy then approaches Duplantis, the man taking the video, and warns him away from the scene, telling him “don’t f— touch me.” Duplantis continues with the video, although his view of what is occurring with Verdin is then obstructed by his location. His daughter, Frankie Jo Verdin, was also shooting video once her boyfriend is brought to the second police car. In her video the third deputy is heard counseling Verdin on his behavior.

The other two deputies were not identified. Verdin’s mother, who called the police initially, said she did not want to discuss the matter when reached by telephone Sunday morning.

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.

A police instructor now living and working in another state, who has worked in Louisiana as part of its Peace Officer Standards and Training program, was sent a copy of the video and was highly critical of the officer’s actions.

“All three of them ought to be fired,” the instructor said. “The one that was doing the yelling cussing and ‘I dare you’ that is unprofessional. The other guys were letting it happen. The deputy wanted him to fight him, to show how bad the deputy is, and that is 100 percent unprofessional. If he had been his size or bigger would he have done the same thing.”

Larpenter said he understands the strains of the job, having once been a road patrol deputy himself.

“But this is not how we train, this is not our standard,” Larpenter said. “The officers did a great job apprehending the suspect. But when somebody is on drugs or alcohol and they argue, there is no use in arguing back.”

The video resulted in a flood of comments on Facebook from people who viewed it, the discussion morphing into a debate on police actions, with some posters highly critical of Cehan and others suggesting the teen was being taught a valuable lesson.

Among the posters was the youth’s father, who said he would seek blood from officers. Detectives are reviewing those posts to determine whether the father’s words amounted to a credible threat against officers.

“I would have thought he should be more concerned about what his son was doing with that gun than the behavior of the officer and the confrontation,” Larpenter said.

One viewer of the video was the Rev. Kirby Verret, pastor of Dulac’s United Methodist Church.

“I am disappointed when conflicts occur especially when those we entrust with our lives lose their professionalism,” Verret said, when asked for comment. “When we have a situation where the law gets involved, obeying the officers’ commands is a good idea. Officers should also be keenly aware not to lose their composure. We should be praying for each other.”

Christopher Verdin Jr.