Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter and two of his deputies were sued in federal court by the parents, brother and friends of an Ellender Memorial High student who was shot and killed by one of the officers last year in Houma’s Village East subdivision.
The clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana confirms that papers were filed Monday alleging violation of the civil rights of Cameron Tillman, who was 14-years-old when Deputy Preston Norman shot him in the carport of an abandoned house on Kirkglen Loop on Sept. 23, 2014.
Deputy Andrew Lewis, the other deputy named in the suit, provided backup for Norman when the shooting occurred.
A Louisiana State Police investigation of the incident determined that Norman, who was in uniform and investigating a report of armed youths inside the house at 51 Kirkglen Loop, opened fire when Tillman answered his knock while holding a realistic replica of a .45 caliber automatic pistol.
A Terrebonne Parish grand jury determined that no crime had been committed.
The killing of Tillman, which occurred at a time of heightened unrest nationwide due to other police shooting incidents in the U.S., sent shockwaves through Houma and surrounding communities and sparked peaceful protests.
The suit was brought on behalf of the teen’s parents, Wyteikia Tillman and Morrell Turner, as well as the dead teen’s older brother, Andre Tillman. Andre Tillman was present at the house.
Lewis accompanied Norman to the call, and provided backup for him during the incident.
In addition to Tillman and his relations, other plaintiffs include the parents of three young men who were with the teen at the house, all minors, when the shooting occurred. The parents are identified in the filing as Tamika Payne, Yolanda Tillman and Brenkie Thomas.
A demand for a specific amount of damages has not been made.
U.S. District Judge Jayne Triche Malazzo has been assigned the case.
Monroe attorney Carol Powell Lexing filed the action, which has not yet been given a calendar date.
“It is important that no other families have to suffer and go through what these families have gone through,” the attorney said. “We want the police to be accountable for mishandling this case. We are seeking justice for the community’s sake.”
Houma attorney Bill Dodd, who represents Larpenter and the two deputies, said he has not seen the suit as of yet but that “our general rule and he way we have handled things for 32 years is that once a suit is filed we don’t comment on the particulars of it.”
“It is now time to distinguish between fact and fiction,” Dodd said. “The things that will be said now will be said under oath, in hearings, in depositions or at trial. Innuendos are over with now and we are going to get down to business. I have believed from the initial incident that out officers acted appropriately and believe at the end of the day the facts and circumstances will bear that out.”