Theresa Richard shared this post via CopBlock.org’s submit page.
On June 7, 2012, my family and I were awoken in the middle of the night when we learned that my daughter’s house was on fire. We live only a few houses down, so we ran down the street through the smoke and saw firefighters on the scene actively fighting the fire. We were told several hours later that my 22 year-old daughter and my 23-month old granddaughter had perished in the fire.
We were met later that morning after the officials had completed their assessment of the scene; we were visited at our home by Crowley Police Department officers along with the Louisiana State Fire Marshal, Keith Reed. We were advised that the scene had been released to my family along with the landlord of the house. We were advised by the police and fire marshal to remove a safe that had survived the fire. The officials were insistent that we remove the safe as soon as possible because they were afraid of looters.
CROWLEY POLICE DEPARTMENT
My husband and I left the house for most of the day to take care of funeral arrangements and securing the release of the bodies. When we arrived home, we had several guests who were already present and in the company of my other children. There were also members of our church delivering food, along with the housekeeper and several of our neighbors and friends.
My brother arrived soon after us and brought a dolly. He and my husband walked down the street with the dolly to the burnt house and loaded the safe on to the dolly. As they left, with the safe, they were approached by a neighbor who began demanding they leave the house. The neighbor explained that the police had put him in charge of the house and they had advised him that it was a crime scene. My husband and brother rolled the safe out of the house while asking the neighbor to leave the property.
They rolled the safe back down the street to our house and into the yard when a Crowley, Louisiana Police Department Patrol car pulled up on the scene. The car was soon followed by another police car also from CPD. Officer Tammy Mallet – (337) 783-1234 -approached my husband and brother and began accusing them of stealing from a crime scene, asking things like who did he think he was, and just being a bully. My husband very politely explained to the officer that the house had been released and advised her that she needed to call the Chief of Police of the Fire Marshal’s Office to verify. She refused and began ordering my husband to bring the safe back to the house. He refused. My daughter approached Mallet and advised her that our family was in mourning, that we were having a peaceful gathering, and that she didn’t have to be so rude.
Mallet told my daughter to shut up and get inside. My daughter refused and when she did, Mallet grabbed her arm, spun her around and pushed her in the direction of the house. She told her to get inside or she would be arrested. My daughter immediately came into the house and told me what was going on outside. I went out on my porch and Mallet approached me and began telling me to get inside the house. I started telling her that the house was released and that there was no crime scene, that we were not breaking the law. She told me again to shut up and get inside. I came off of the porch and began telling her to get off of my property. I told her she had no right to be there because there was no crime. I begged her to please make a phone call and verify. Mallet reached around her back, pulled out her handcuffs and began placing me under arrest.
There was such a crowd at my home that several of my guests got in between Mallet and myself, and I was shuffled back inside the house. Mallet told me that if I came out I would be arrested.
Once inside, I immediately phoned the Crowley police department and asked for the officer on duty. An officer came on the line and I began to tell him the situation with Mallet and the release of the house. I begged him to send someone out that could control her. He advised me that he would not send anyone because Mallet was the supervisor, and that if I didn’t like what was going on, I could file an internal affairs complaint from 8-4 Monday-Friday.
When I got nowhere with CPD, I phoned the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Department. I asked to speak to the officer on duty and when I gave my name, the deputy hung up on me. I could hear Mallet, along with two other unidentified officers, yelling outside to stop calling the Sheriff’s office because they weren’t coming.
This went on for what seemed like forever but probably lasted about 30-45 minutes. These officers finally received a radio call and just got in their cars and left. They never apologized or tried to explain why they had been such a bunch of thugs. They just jumped into the two police cruisers and drove off.
I was up the entire night after the incident. I’m sure that some of my lack of sleep was associated with the tremendous loss we had faced, but as the night went on I just couldn’t get over how they had disrespected my family and friends, but more importantly they had disrespected my babies who died in that fire. As soon as the sun came up, I called CPD to leave a message for the Chief to call me as soon as he was available.
That call never came but the department did dispatch two officers to come to my house and take my internal affairs complaint. These officers assured me that my complaint would be dealt with appropriately. I was assured that these types of complaints are taken very seriously. I questioned whether or not I needed to file a separate criminal complaint against Mallet for her trespass on my property. I was assured that with the filing of the IA complaint, any criminal charges found to have occurred would be forwarded to the Louisiana State Police. As we were still quite upset the morning the officer came to take my complaint, they asked me to fill out a complaint form and said that they would allow me a few days to gather my thoughts and take care of my daughter and granddaughter and then they would send out an officer to take my statement and gather the statements of any of the witnesses whose names and contact information could be provided the following week.
After ten days had passed and no one had ever come to take our statements or returned my phone calls, I helped my daughters type their statement and I typed up mine as well. I delivered these documents to the internal affairs officer, Konrad Kirsh. I also gave him a list of about 10 other witnesses and their contact information. Kirsh assured me that the issue with the officers being uninformed about the house was taken care of and then he promised that his officers would be respectful to my family and I in the future. He also advised me that Tammy Mallet had received her letter notifying her of the investigation that very day and that they were intent on following up.
I left the station and when I arrived home there were two men who I had hired to remove appliances from the burnt house waiting for me. They were on bikes and they followed me down the street and I accompanied them into the house. They assessed the situation and we all left the house to get a truck. As we were leaving, CPD Officer Lynn Baker arrived on the scene. I walked directly to his car and as his window was down, I began telling him who I was and about the release of the house. He started screaming at me to calm down. I was shocked because I had never raised my voice and I was not upset. He started asking me if I knew the two men who were in the house with me. I told him that they were doing some work for me. He started screaming at me about whether or not I knew what kind of people those were and finally I told him that what I did and who I brought into that house was none of his business. I told him that I had every right to be there and to bring whomever I wanted to help me remove the property. He continued to scream at me about what kind of people I had brought to that house and if I knew who I was dealing with. Finally I told him that I had had enough of him screaming at me and I turned around to walk home.
At this point, Baker jumped out of his car, grabbed me by my arm and spun me back around to face him. He got in my face and started screaming at me to look at him when he was talking to me and saying that he didn’t appreciate people like me complaining about people like him just trying to do their job. I told him that I was done talking to him that he could either arrest me or get out of my face. I turned around and started walking towards my house. I was terrified. I could see him running to get into his car and could see his car speeding to catch me. Right then, he got a call on his radio and though he had stopped again next to me on the street, after he got the call he just sped away.
The guys who I had hired to help me move the appliances told me later that Lynn Baker had caught up with them after he left me and followed them all of the way home and threatened them with arrest if they came back. They told me they couldn’t come help me until I got that straightened out with the Chief of Police (K.P. Gibson (337) 783-6050).
I went into my home in tears and called CPD and spoke to Officer Osbourne. Osbourne told me that Baker was confused about the situation because the property owner had added posted signs to the house. I asked to speak to the Chief but was told he was unavailable. I could hear Osbourne in the background talking to the chief asking him what he wanted him to do with me. I could hear the Chief say, “I don’t care, do whatever you think.” Osbourne promised to send me the internal affairs officer to take my complaint right away but no one ever showed up.
Two days later, my husband and I woke up early and walked to the burnt house to see if we could start retrieving the property in the house. We were met there by the property owner along with several dump trucks and equipment to tear the house down. We informed the landlord that we had been unable to retrieve my daughter’s property because of the police. We asked them to stop the tearing down of the house at least for a couple of hours so that we could get her property. He refused, and when I called CPD for assistance they told me it was a civil matter.
So, the house was torn down that morning, only 13 days after the fire. All of the dump-trucks full of my daughter and granddaughter’s things drove right in front of my home. It exacerbated our grief and truly devastated me to see the baby clothes and toys hanging over the sides of the trucks. It’s a vision I will never get out of my mind. It was all we had left of our loved ones and we will never be able to get those things back. It’s not something I think I will ever be able to forgive.
When Chief Gibson never bothered to call me back, ever, I began researching lawyers. I made dozens of calls to different attorneys until I found one that specialized in 1982 lawsuits and police misconduct. He took over the fight for me and began sending off preservation letters, Public Information request and eventually filed a Writ of Mandamus. We requested the public records from the fire, all the radio traffic, call logs, etc. We also requested the internal affairs complaint file, which by the way IS public information. We went to court for the Writ of Mandamus and were surprised that the Chief and City Attorney (Thomas Regan 3377837141) didn’t even bother to show up. Oh, sure they met us down stairs later but it was after we had already received our judgement ordering Kelly Gibson to turn over the documents we requested.
Unfortunately the Chief has yet to comply with the Court Order. We have certainly filed to enforce the judgement, but that court date has been postponed at least twice. I have no idea when that date will be set and really have no explanation as to why we have been postponed.
We have since filed a lawsuit in District Court here in Acadia Parish. This lawsuit focuses on the abuses of the police the night of the incident. Once again, the City Attorney Thomas Regan, along with Chief Gibson, failed to answer the suit. Two weeks ago, I received a Default Judgement against the Chief and others listed in the suit. No money judgement yet, but that’s the next phase.
I am very proud of the steps that I have taken to TRY to hold these bully cops accountable for their behavior. It is despicable that the Chief has broken a court order and violated state law to cover up the misdeeds of his band of bullies. I am disgusted that the cost of this fight has been in the tens of thousands of dollars. It makes me sick to think that without those resources, I would have had no recourse for what happened to us.
My family and I hope that our lawsuit brings about some change in policy within the department, and we will continue to fight until Officer Mallet, Baker and their two unknown comrades are held accountable for their behavior.
Family Gathering Raided by Crowley, Louisiana Police Department is a post from Cop Block - Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights