NEW ORLEANS — Five Louisiana State Police troopers and the agency’s leader have been sued for an alleged unconstitutional stop and arrest last year of a 17-year-old tourist in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court by Lyle Dotson, of Muncie, Indiana, and his father, Olon Dotson, a professor of architecture at Ball State University.
The lawsuit contends state police physically assaulted and arrested Lyle Dotson on Oct. 7, 2015, without lawful authority. Lyle Dotson alleges his arrest detention and treatment violated his constitutional rights and caused physical, mental and emotional distress, pain and suffering, according to the suit.
Maj. Doug Cain, a spokesman for Louisiana State Police, said Friday that they had yet to be served with the lawsuit and he could not specifically respond to the allegations in the suit.
“In general, though, we are very proud of the work our troopers are doing in New Orleans and we welcome any concerns anyone would have regarding that,” Cain said.
The Dotsons are seeking compensatory and punitive damages in addition to attorneys’ fees.
The lawsuit contends the Dotsons, who are black, were in New Orleans with the professor’s architecture class on an extended field trip through the southern United States to view key civil rights sites and the “unique and historic architecture” of New Orleans.
During the class’ stop in the French Quarter to see the interior courtyard at Pat O’Brien’s, Dotson’s son could not enter because he was too young. The teenager arranged to meet the group at the bar’s back entrance, but got lost. While on the phone with his father, the lawsuit says “Lyle was physically assaulted, detained and ultimately arrested without lawful authority by Louisiana State Police.”
“Lyle Dotson did nothing other than stand on a public street in the French Quarter,” the lawsuit said. “Rather than uphold their obligation to make the French Quarter and the City of New Orleans a safe and pleasant destination for visitors, the Louisiana State Police’s unconstitutional and racially-driven policies, practices and customs achieve precisely the opposite, endangering and injuring individuals visiting New Orleans.”
State police have periodically beefed up patrols in New Orleans during special events. They have had a regular presence in the city in recent years as the city has struggled to rebuild a depleted police force.
Attorneys Jim Craig and Emily Washington of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at New Orleans, and New Orleans attorney Elizabeth Cummings represent the Dotsons.