LAWSUIT: Two Jeff. Parish deputies sat on teen with autism for 9 minutes before his death

The sheriff’s office says they are “deeply saddened” over the “unfortunate loss of life.”
Updated: Jan. 14, 2021 at 5:42 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The parents of a teen with autism who died last year after an incident with Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Deputies are suing Sheriff Joseph Lopinto and seven deputies.

Attorneys for the parents allege their son, Eric Parsa, 16, had his civil rights violated.

The lawsuit, seeking damages under the American Disabilities Act, was filed Thursday, Jan. 14 in federal court.

The incident happened on Jan. 19, 2020. Deputies say they responded to a call for help, accusing the teen of violently attacking his 53-year-old father outside of Laser Tag on Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Metairie.

More: 16-year-old special needs patient dies in Jefferson Parish custody

Investigators say when they arrived, they noticed multiple bite wounds on the father, including some to his face.

In a press conference held Thursday morning on Zoom, attorneys say the teen was having an autism-related meltdown.

The lawsuit alleges the responding deputy and others were made aware of the teen’s disability. Despite that, attorneys say once the 16-year-old was in handcuffs, at least two deputies sat on him for nine minutes and six seconds.

“Eric was experiencing a crisis or a meltdown when we came into contact with Jefferson Parish deputies,” his mother, Donna Lou said in tears Thursday morning. “Never did we ever think that our 16-year-old son with special needs would die in front of our eyes.”

The sheriff’s office released a statement Thursday afternoon:

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office does not generally publicly respond to matters regarding active litigation. The Sheriff’s Office, however, is compelled to respond to the lawsuit filed today in the Eastern District of Louisiana titled Parsa v. Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto, III, et al.

While the Sheriff’s Office understands that all deaths are cause for sadness and a time for grieving, this lawsuit is rife with false claims and malicious accusations against the first 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 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.

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