In the last several months in Louisiana, the city of Crowley and its police department have been served with three separate federal lawsuits allege police misconduct with claims including arrests for video recording police officers, an illegal home invasion of a defense attorney and losing body and dash camera footage during an “execution-style” police shooting of a man.
Crowley Police Chief Police K.P. Gibson as well as Mayor Greg Jones have both been listed as defendants. One of the lawsuits was filed by me, but we’ll save that for last.
The first lawsuit
Last week, Amy Leblanc, the wife of deceased Melvin Leblanc, filed suit alleging city police officers shot and killed her husband “execution style” while at his home for a wellness check.
In the lawsuit, Amy Leblanc claims that the two officers involved in her husband’s death had responded to a call earlier that day in which they were told Melvin Leblanc was depressed and making suicidal threats. In that earlier call, officers also saw a loaded revolver and told the people inside the home to unload the gun and hide it from Melvin Leblanc, the lawsuit says.
The people in the house complied and unloaded the gun.
The lawsuit maintains that the same two officers were called back to the home later that day after Leblanc became increasingly more erratic. The lawsuit accuses the officers of either disengaging their body cameras and dash cams or not properly preserving the video from the scene.
“Although, there were four units on the scene there is no video or audio recording of the incident,” the lawsuit says.
…”A total of 14 shots were fired.”
A revolver later found several feet away from Melvin Leblanc was not loaded, according to the lawsuit.
The officers named in the suit are David Melancon and Dwayne Schexnider. Two other officers, Tammy Mallet and Skeat Thibodeaux, were also on scene.
In a statement given to investigators with the state police, Melancon says he and Schexnider approached the residence with their weapons drawn. Two other officers on scene, Lt. Tammy Mallet and Patrolman Skeat Thibodeaux went around the rear of the home to cover the back door.
Schexnider had his police dog with him as they approached. Melancon says the two announced their presence and ordered LeBlanc out of his residence, but got no response, even though they heard someone shuffling around inside.
They decided to kick in the door of the home and eventually heard LeBlanc tell them he was coming out.
From the Louisiana State Police report presented to Acadia Parish District Attorney Keith Stutes:
“Melancon heard a thud and glass shatter. He also saw the silhouette of LeBlanc pointing a pistol at him. Melancon, feeling as though he was shot at, fired at LeBlanc multiple times. LeBlanc fell back in the house. Melancon could see LeBlanc lying on the floor on his side facing to Melancon’s right. Melancon could also see the handgun lying on the left side of LeBlanc on the floor. Melancon gave LeBlanc commands to show his hands. LeBlanc reached for the gun. As LeBlanc grabbed the gun next to him, Melancon fired one additional shot, striking LeBlanc. LeBlanc then rolled over on the floor. Melancon and Schexnider then released the K9 into the residence. With no active aggression or resistance, the dog returned to Schexnider.”
The autopsy report confirms Leblanc, who was 53, died from multiple gunshot wounds. He was shot in the leg, chest and behind his right ear. The results from drug screens performed showed LeBlanc only had caffeine in his system.
Ballistic reports prove the gun, found unloaded near Leblanc’s body, had not been fired that day.
The Louisiana State Police investigated the shooting and cleared the officers. The local district attorney also declined to take any action against the officers involved. The officers were never disciplined by the department for their failure to follow departmental policy regarding the engagement of body cameras and dash cameras.
Immediately following the incident Melancon was placed on administrative leave but was quietly placed back on duty shortly after the shooting and before the completion of the state police investigation. Three months later, Melancon shot another man in the head while on patrol in West Crowley.
The second shooting on November 4 involved a traffic stop that was initiated by Crowley police officer William Brown. The car was being stopped for a burnt license plate light. According to the initial police report, the vehicle, driven by Javian Andrus, did not stop immediately and a pursuit began.
Sergeant David Melancon parked his patrol car around a corner three blocks from the traffic stop and as the car drove towards him, opened fire and shot the driver in the head and arm.
The shooting occurred within a minute of the initiation of the stop, according to the report. Though there were two other passengers in the vehicle, including Andrus’ four-year old cousin, no one else was injured by gunshots. It is still unclear how many shots were actually fired into the vehicle.
Andrus survived the shooting and was arrested upon his release from the hospital. He was charged with attempted first degree murder of a police officer, aggravated flight, and possession of one gram of marijuana. He eventually pleaded to the aggravated flight charge and was released several months later.
The second lawsuit
Another lawsuit filed in December alleges the false arrest of Clay Lejeune and his wife Mitzi, both attorneys, in the small town of 12,000 people.
KATC had this to say about the lawsuit:
“… Police on May 25 kicked in the unlocked door of the couple’s large Victorian home on North Avenue G when responding to a 911 call reporting that a girl or woman in the backyard might have been screaming “help me.”
The girl, the couple’s teenage daughter, was actually yelling “daddy,” calling her father to come help her capture the family’s Yorkshire terrier after the dog escaped from an electronic fence, Sallinger said.
He said the 911 caller also commented that “it may be nothing” and he said police should have investigated further before deciding to “crash through the front door of a residence where its occupants were readying the table for a Sunday meal.”
According to LeJeune, he and his wife walked into their foyer to find their two young daughters being held at gunpoint after officer Brown kicked in their door. Brown was accompanied by officers Skeat Thibodeaux, David Melancon, and Jacob Primeaux.
LeJeune told officers to leave his property and insisted they were not needed. When the officers present would not leave, an altercation broke out and LeJeune was knocked to the ground and shocked at least three times with a taser before being arrested.
LeJeune was charged with assaulting a police officer as well as public intimidation. His wife, Mitzi, was also arrested and charged with public intimidation.
In an ironic twist to this story, officers did manage to capture video of this incident, but not until after the door was kicked in. The police video of the incident was released anonymously to KATC several months after it happened. It was later determined that the video had been leaked by someone within the department, something Chief Gibson has vowed to investigate.
The charges against the LeJeune’s were forwarded to the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office who then forwarded the case to Louisiana’s Seventh Judicial District due to conflicts of interest.
All charges against the LeJeunes were eventually dropped by Brad Burget, District Attorney for the Seventh Judicial District. Burget was quoted by KATC:
“With no warrant and no follow up visits for domestic abuse, which was the basis of the initial 911 call, Burget says, “It looks like a lot of people made some bad decisions that day, but I don’t think it was criminal in nature.”
The third lawsuit
Both lawsuits come on the heels of a third federal suit filed by myself against the city in December. My suit alleges that many of the police officers working for the Crowley Police Department were not properly certified when they arrested me twice for video recording, questioning their ability to make lawful arrests.
The certification problems came to light after a series of public record requests. I made those requests following Melancon being placed on administrative leave after the LeBlanc shooting.
The records I requested proved that Chief Gibson had failed to have certain employee actions brought before the council for the required approval of their hiring, promotions, disciplinary actions and terminations. Many of the officers had no civil service file either. The failures of the chief to follow the required proceedure left his officers without the required certification to make lawful arrests. These failures were found to have been occurring for almost a decade, since Gibson took office.
Gibson’s response to the Leblanc lawsuit:
Gibson said in a prepared statement that State Police investigated the case and presented their findings to the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which declined to charge any of the officers involved.
Crowley Police Department 337-783-1234
Acadia Parish District Attorney 337-788-8831