by Andrew Emett
October 14, 2015
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A former police chief pleaded guilty and a second police chief was sentenced to prison on Tuesday for firing their Tasers at non-combative inmates at Mamou Jail in Louisiana. Surveillance video from the jail revealed that the prisoners were calm and compliant when Tasers were deployed against them. Both chiefs admitted that they knew their actions were unlawful but continued to deprive inmates of their rights under color of law.
From 1994 to 1997 and from 2004 to 2014, Gregory Dupuis served as police chief of Mamou while encouraging his officers to fire their Tasers at prisoners even if they posed no threat to anyone. In one incident on Apr. 25, 2010, Dupuis ordered a detainee to place his hands on the far wall before opening the cell door. After the inmate complied, Dupuis entered the cell and fired his Taser into the man’s back, causing him to fall to the ground and injure his knee.
Between 2014 and October 2015, Robert McGee served as police chief of Mamou even though surveillance video from inside the jail caught him tasing numerous inmates without provocation. Prior to his 2014 election as chief of the Mamou Police Department, McGee was one of the over aggressive officers under Dupuis. From 2010 to 2011, McGee and former officer Joe Deshotel can be seen on videos deploying their Tasers against compliant and non-combative detainees in their cells.
When the videos of McGee’s prisoner abuse surfaced in December 2014, then-police chief Dupuis refused to investigate the incidents because he had also participated in the civil rights violations. As a result of a federal investigation into the illegal use of excessive force upon inmates, Dupuis pleaded guilty to one count of violating an individual’s civil rights on April 13. McGee resigned as chief of police last week on October 8.
“The defendants abused the trust given to them as law enforcement officers when they engaged in a pattern of repeatedly tasing compliant detainees,” stated Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute those who violate the civil rights laws to ensure that the rights of all individuals, including those in custody, are protected.”
On Tuesday, McGee pleaded guilty to one count of the deprivation of rights under color of law. He faces up to 10 years in prison, three years supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. On the same day, Dupuis was sentenced to one year and one day in prison.
In 2009, a woman filed a federal lawsuit against the Mamou Police Department after three officers entered her cell and began using their stun guns on her during a seizure. The incident triggered another seizure and rendered the woman unconscious. Lodged into her bone, the metal prong of one of their stun guns had to be surgically removed resulting in permanent scarring.