Attorney alleges ‘cover-up’ in death of Eric Nelson while in Bogalusa Police custody

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 4:35 PM CST
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BOGALUSA, La. (WVUE) - More than a year after Eric Nelson died in Bogalusa police custody, his family members are renewing their calls for justice, saying they still have unanswered questions.

“There is a cover-up going on down here in Bogalusa,” Nelson family attorney Carol Powell Lexing said Monday (Feb. 6) in a press conference outside Bogalusa City Hall.

Nelson was taken into custody by Washington Parish sheriff’s deputies on outstanding warrants after a car crash in December 2021.

Records say Nelson initially complied when police took him into custody, but police say he attempted to escape before he was brought to jail.

According to police, deputies took Nelson to his mother’s home to change his shoes before being taken to jail. That’s when Bogalusa police arrived and say Nelson tried to escape on foot, running into a creek.

“According to the police, Nelson went into the woods, crossed a stream and went into undergrowth, where he was tased by police and taken into custody,” the lawsuit said.

Family survivors of Eric L. Nelson filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Nov. 22, less than a...
Family survivors of Eric L. Nelson filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Nov. 22, less than a year after the 28-year-old's death while in the custody of Bogalusa police.(WVUE-Fox 8)

Nelson allegedly complained of breathing difficulties after being tased.

Video from Bogalusa police headquarters, provided by an attorney for the Nelson family, shows the 28-year-old apparently unconscious after arriving at the police station. In the video, Nelson is dragged out of a police cruiser, his head apparently hitting the concrete before he is dragged around to the front of the car.

Paramedics arrive, transporting Nelson to the hospital where he later died.

“What they did, he didn’t deserve that,” said Nelson’s mother Trista Nelson. “I know it won’t bring him back. He was a big factor in our family. But at least we can get a little comfort.”

Louisiana State Police originally investigated the incident and declined to press charges. LSP sent their findings to District Attorney Warren Montgomery, who also declined to press charges.

“I reviewed every relative criminal charge to this case,” Montgomery said in a press release on Jan. 20. “Based on all the information known to me involving the death of Eric Nelson while in police custody, no criminal charges will be brought at this time against law enforcement personnel involved in the incident.”

Montgomery said the decision could be revisited if any new evidence of criminal conduct was developed.


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“You pull him out, you electrocuted him, you beat him, you don’t provide any services to him to bring him back,” Lexing said. “You don’t even take him to a hospital that you pass by.”

Questions linger for the Nelson family. The biggest one: Why didn’t any of the officers pursuing Nelson through the woods have their body cameras turned on?

“Why would they turn off their body cams when they’re chasing a man through the woods? What do they not want us to see? We’re here because we want transparency and we want accountability, but none of these officers have been held accountable for the killing of Eric Nelson,” Lexing said. “They decided that they were not going to turn on their body cams when they decided they were going to chase Eric Nelson through the woods, so that nobody could see them beating and tasering him to death.”

The family said it plans to ask the United States Department of Justice to open an investigation.

The Bogalusa Police Department did not respond to a request for comment on the case.

“I just want justice for my baby, and those who done what they done to him,” Nelson’s mother said. “I want them held accountable.”

Before being sworn in, Bogalusa’s 23-year-old mayor-elect Tyrin Truong called for the resignation of the city’s police chief. Chief Kendall Bullen never responded to the mayor-elect’s salvo, only releasing a statement saying that his department was cooperating with state police.

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