ST. GABRIEL, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana Department of Corrections has placed six corrections officers on administrative leave amid allegations of excessive forced used against an inmate at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center.
Photographs of the inmate, identified as John Harrold, 34, of Thibodaux, appear to show injuries to his head, leg, and foot. Relatives of the inmate said they were sent the photographs by someone within the prison.
"Immediately upon learning of allegations of excessive force on an offender, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections launched an investigation, placed six corrections officers on administrative leave, and notified local law enforcement," the department said.
The alleged incident occurred earlier this week at the prison facility in St. Gabriel, investigators said.
Harrold's sister told the 9News Investigators her brother claims he was subjected to tear gas and beaten by corrections officers after asking for medication for high blood pressure Monday night.
"His face was disfigured," Tina Harrold, the inmate's sister said. "His eyes were bleeding, but he said he had a gash in his head where he was bleeding from and over his eyes he was bleeding."
After learning of the alleged abuse, Tina Harrold reached out to the prison, but she said she didn't hear anything until days later.
"I didn't hear from them until around this evening maybe after 4:00," Tina Harrold added.
The St. Gabriel Police Department will investigate the case. Thursday night, St. Gabriel Police Chief Kevin Ambeau provided the update below:
Ambeau, who learned about the allegations through our 9NEWS alert said his department is taking the claim seriously.
"When you're talking about corrections officers, police officers, at this day in time, the public trust is not too good with police officers and corrections officers or anybody in law enforcement, so we have to take it serious," Ambeau explained. "We have to take it seriously and let the public know that we mean business."
Ambeau added excessive force is not something he tolerates and the department will do whatever it can to get to the bottom of the allegations.
"We owe the family the truth. We owe this inmate's family the truth. From what I understand, they are the ones that brought forth the allegations and I can tell them that we'll get to the bottom of it," Ambeau said.
While Tina Harrold said she will wait on the investigation to play out, she wants justice for her brother.
"I'm just hoping for the best. I saw the police chief interview and I'm hoping that he's going to do what he said he's going to do and justice will be served," Tina Harrold added.
The investigation is still in its early stages. The police chief said he will start reviewing evidence as early as Friday.
In a different incident, she said her brother fell at the prison last year and then fell out of a wheelchair while being transported to a hospital. He hit his head on concrete, causing him to suffer a concussion and be placed in a neck brace, she said. She says the latest incident happened Monday, January 9 at the prison.
She said the prison warden told her by phone Thursday that her brother was receiving medical treatment for the latest incident.
According to a spokesperson with the Department of Corrections, the criminal history associated with the inmate number provided by Harrold's sister is as follows:
- April 5, 2005: Sentenced to 10 years for armed robbery
- October 6, 2009: Charged with battery of a correctional officer and simple criminal damage to property
- January 7, 2010: Sentenced to 6 months (concurrent) for battery of a correctional officer and simple criminal damage to property
- January 14, 2014: Released for good time served/parole
- September 16, 2014: Charged with resisting an officer during an arrest for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle that happened occurred on June 6, 2014
- October 2, 2014: Parole revoked pending the charges of resisting an officer during arrest for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle
- February 27, 2015: Sentenced to 7 years for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and 1 year for resisting an officer, both concurrent sentences
The Louisiana Department of Corrections said the investigation continues and would not comment on any specific allegations.