No charges for officers after in-custody death of Monroe man

Monroe Mayor Friday Ellis is expected to address the matter August 2
Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 4:59 PM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - District Attorney Steve Tew’s office has decided not to prosecute the Monroe Police Department officers connected with the in-custody death of David Harris. That’s according to Carol Powell Lexing, the attorney representing Harris’ family.

“The family is highly disappointed. Its just a disappointing day as it relates to seeing police officers that do not know how to handle people that are mentally challenged. That was very disappointing. Which, for the lack of their training of knowing how to handle people who are mentally challenged, that person died in their custody,” Powell Lexing said.

Harris died while in custody at the Ouachita Correctional Center in April 2021. He was arrested after reports he was behaving erratically.

According to Powell Lexing, the DA’s office said after they reviewed everything, they did not find MPD used excessive force and they didn’t find enough evidence to bring before the grand jury. The North Louisiana Sheriff’s Investigative Unit (NLSIU) announced they took on the case in April after Harris died. They handed their findings to the DA’s office in June.

A Monroe police report states officers saw Harris behaving erratically near his home on Alabama street. Attorneys say a family member asked police to take Harris to the hospital. Police say they took him into custody to take him to Ochsner LSU Health Monroe Medical Center, but something happened. Officers say a fight ensued during transport and he was taken to OCC instead where they say he became unresponsive and died.

The DA’s office released the following press release regarding the matter:

“The Office of the District Attorney received for review the final report of the Northeast Louisiana Sheriff’s Investigative Unit pertaining to the in-custody death of David Harris on April 3, 2021. The purpose for said review was for the determination of criminal wrongdoing. After careful review of the written reports, recorded statements of witnesses, numerous officer body-camera videos and the autopsy report, the District Attorney has determined there was no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the police. Mr. Harris was under the influence of phencyclidine and methamphetamine when the officers encountered him. They took him to the hospital to try to get him medical assistance. Upon arriving at the hospital, Mr. Harris became extremely combative and fought the officers excessively. The autopsy report finding was “cardiopulmonary arrest following physical restraint, exertion and struggle with drive stun conductive electrical device application, in the setting of phencyclidine and methamphetamine intoxication, complicated by hypertensive arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease.” The officers’ actions relating to Mr. Harris on April 3, 2021, were appropriate. There is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the officers and no further actions in this matter will be taken. The Office of the District Attorney has met with David Harris’ family, expressed our condolences concerning his death and informed them of the results of the review in this matter.”

Monroe Mayor Friday Ellis is expected to address the DA’s determination Monday, August 2, 2021.

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