The parents of an autistic Destrehan teen who died during a confrontation with Jefferson Parish deputies early last year is suing the parish’s Sheriff’s Office for negligence in the boy’s death.
Eric Parsa died while being restrained by Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies in the midst of a physical altercation in the parking lot of Metairie’s Westgate Shopping Center in January of 2020.
Video released as part of the lawsuit, which was filed Jan. 14 in New Orleans federal court, showed Parsa leaving a Laser Tag in Metairie before becoming upset and slapping at his father and himself.
Attorneys for the Parsa family claim that once deputies arrived on the scene, they restrained Parsa by putting him face down on the ground and handcuffing him behind his back, using their own body weight to hold him down for more than nine minutes. The attorneys also claim a deputy used a chokehold on Parsa, who ultimately stopped breathing and died as his parents watched.
Daren Parsa and his wife Donna Lou, the teen’s parents, are suing Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto, seven JPSO deputies and the owners of Westgate Shopping Center, claiming negligence and civil rights violations.
The lawsuit described Eric Parsa as “severely autistic” and claims Parsa was suffering from an acute sensory episode.
“The final application of excessive force against (Parsa) involved a deputy using his forearm to place a choke/neck hold around E.P.’s head, shoulder and neck, as he lay in a prone position, with a deputy on his back and other deputies holding down his arms and legs, while he was handcuffed and in leg shackles,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit noted the confrontation/episode between Eric Parsa and his father lasted five minutes and that the parents responded affirmatively when asked by a Laser Tag manager if police should be called for assistance.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office released a statement in response to the lawsuit, noting in it that the JPSO generally does not publically respond to matters involving active litigation but would in this circumstance, alleging the lawsuit made several “false claims and malicious accusations” toward the responding deputies.
“This case centers on a severely autistic teenager diagnosed with numerous other mental conditions which caused him to have frequent violent outbursts,” the statement read. “The teenager violently attacked his father in a Jefferson Parish parking lot. The teenager beat and bit his own father, causing significant visible bloody injuries. A bystander called the Sheriff’s Office to respond to the scene.
“Once deputies arrived they tried to control the violent teenager’s outbursts to prevent him from again attacking his parents and first responders. Deputies allowed the teenager’s mother constant access to remain close to her son on the scene so that she could help first responders in defusing her son’s violent behavior.
“While the Sheriff’s Office remains deeply saddened over this unfortunate loss of life, it does not intend to allow Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Deputies to be maligned and slandered by those seeking to profit from this unfortunate situation. The Sheriff’s Office will timely respond to these matters as requested by the Court.”