An innocent, 68-year old man became annoyed at police for not finding a suspect in a property theft. He was cuffed and shoved into the back seat of a car by police in March 2021. Later, he died from a heart attack. When they arrived at the scene, they attempted to perform basic CPR.
Two sons of William Walls are suing the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana (and two specific deputies) under 42 U.S. Code §1983, which holds government agencies and agents liable for “the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution.” The wrongful death suit was transferred from the state to the federal courts this week. For his part in Walls’ death, Deputy Ryan Chapman (an officer implicated) is now facing criminal prosecution.
Walls had not been granted permission to enter the house. The officer also didn’t have any reasonable cause for him to be cuffed and taken to hospital.
Walls first agreed for the police to search his home. They were looking for a suspected theft suspect. This is evident in the footage of an officer using bodycam video from KTBS. Walls was killed when police searched his mobile home. But, the suspect wasn’t there.
After becoming annoyed that the officers kept looking at larger properties, Walls came out of his mobile house and gave them a telephone so they could call one of his sons.
As seen in the video, Walls was walking back into his own mobile home, doing nothing to obstruct the officers besides having asked them to leave, when they followed him in, pushed him against a bit of furniture, and cuffed him in his own home—his invitation for them to enter obviously rescinded by then.
Chapman described Walls’ reasons for being cuffed, and then dragged from his house as “cuss.”[ing]”At him and Slam[ming a] door in his face.” Walls was unable to shut the door. An officer held the key as Walls tried. They had searched the property before they entered, so neither of these offenses can reasonably be considered criminal obstruction.
Walls’ final words were “I have not obstructed Justice, sir” spoken in quiet.
The officers claimed that Chapman was a risk to their safety but this isn’t the conclusion any reasonable cop would have based on the footage. Although officers were cleared by an internal investigation (surprise), the Caddo Parish district attorneys’ office sent the case on to a grand jury, and Chapman was indicted.
According to the indictment, Chapman is facing “one count” of malfeasance at work stemming out of a March 18th 2021 in-custody murder. This is a felony that can carry up to five year sentence with or without hard work and a fine up to $5,000.
In part of their lawsuit, the family stated “William E. Walls was a senior citizen who spent his entire life as a law-abiding citizen, and was trying to cooperate with law enforcement – until Deputy Chapman began acting unreasonably.”
It is possible to appear completely innocent and be rendered meaningless by a police officer who crosses your path. Even though the police have their own procedure and investigative powers, they are unable to stop or punish police officers who cause death and harm.