Robert Ricks Case: Re-examining his death following his 2011 arrest

Sister of Robert Ricks writes letter to the U.S. Dept. of Justice asking agency to reopen case
The sister of an Alexandria man who died in 2011 after an encounter with law enforcement is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to review the case.
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 6:17 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2022 at 6:36 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Just 13 minutes after midnight on Feb. 6, 2011, Robert Ricks, 23, of Alexandria, was pronounced dead at a local hospital after being taken to the Rapides Parish DC 1 jail just about an hour before. Ricks was to be booked after an incident the night of Feb. 5, 2011, at his grandmother’s house on Applewhite Street in Alexandria.

It began as a medical call to 911 by his grandmother because Ricks was apparently having a seizure.

Since Ricks died after an incident with law enforcement, Louisiana State Police investigated what happened and no criminal charges were filed. A year later, his father, Lawrence Ricks, filed a federal civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Alexandria for a violation of civil rights. The parties named as defendants included the agencies and people involved the night of Feb. 5, as we as Taser International because Ricks was tased by law enforcement twice that night.

Now, more than 11 years later, Robert Ricks’ case is back in the spotlight again. A video was posted to YouTube on May 23, 2022, reportedly of new footage of Ricks’ encounter with law enforcement at the jail. That video spawned a letter a week later from his younger sister, Destiny Jones, to the U.S. Department of Justice, asking for the case to be reopened.

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Jones told KALB in an interview earlier this month. “How it turned from him being a patient to arresting him.”

For the past few weeks, our news team has been poring over hundreds of pages of documents from the case, including affidavits, medical reports and expert testimony. We have also looked at more than an hour of surveillance video taken in the jail. Here is a recap of the case and what could happen next.

Jones said Ricks, who was her older brother, lived with his grandmother, Maxine Jones, at her home on Applewhite Street.

“He had literally moved back here to Alexandria, like a year and a half that he had been back here,” said Jones.

Ricks struggled with mental illness.

“He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” she said. “He was going to outpatient services.”

Just three days before the incident with law enforcement on Feb. 5, Ricks was discharged from Crossroads. Around 9:30 p.m. the night of Feb. 5, his grandmother made a call to 911.

Acadian Ambulance arrived at the scene first. A paramedic went in to assess Ricks, who was sitting in a recliner in the living room. In a report, the paramedic said Ricks was very anxious, sweating, breathing heavily, and had dilated pupils. But, he was awake and alert.

The report states that Ricks abruptly stood up and went to the back of the house, which led to Acadian Ambulance crews becoming concerned about safety - deciding to wait outside for assistance.

That is when the Alexandria Fire Department arrived.

Captain Silton Metoyer, who worked for the department, noted in a report that he had dealt with Ricks before in 2010, in which he noted, “Ricks’ behavior had been very combative and violent.” Another firefighter noted in the report that Ricks had “mutilated himself” in the 2010 incident.

Because of that prior incident, Metoyer gave orders on Feb. 5 for other firefighters and Acadian Ambulance personnel to leave the home and called the Alexandria Police Department for backup.

Ricks’ grandmother spoke with KALB in 2011 about the incident. She died less than a year after her grandson’s death.

“They said they were not equipped to handle a person like that, the ambulance said,” Jones told us. “So, I guess they must have called the policemen.”

Four members of APD arrived at the home - Officer Deidra Allen, Officer Marcus Kirk, Officer William Carmouche and Sgt. Danny Joffrion. The four members of APD were told by Metoyer about the 2010 incident with Ricks.

Despite at least one of the officer’s statements sharing that they were responding to a combative patient, there are no reports at this point in the night of Ricks being combative with anyone.

At 10:12 p.m., the four officers entered the home and went to talk to Ricks in the back bedroom of the house. The following claims came from their statements given to Louisiana State Police just a week after Ricks’ death.

The officers described Ricks as restless, constantly changing clothes and looking through paperwork in the bedroom. Officers were with him between 45 minutes and an hour attempting to get him to go to the hospital. Officer Carmouche, who is also a paramedic, shared that he saw Ricks with both anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety medication.

Two of the four officers said Ricks was on the phone at one point with his girlfriend, who was also trying to get him to go to the hospital. Jones also told KALB that Ricks spoke with his older brother, Lawrence, while in the bedroom.

“Robert told him, ‘Lawrence, I’m okay. I took my medicine. I don’t know why they are here,’” said Jones.

The officers claim that Ricks’ grandmother told them she had a heart condition, was tired and wanted him out of the house. But, they noted that she was a calming presence for Ricks in the bedroom, with at least one officer claiming that Ricks clung to her as she walked him out of the bedroom.

When they made it to the living room, officers claim that Ricks became apprehensive when his grandmother shared that she was not going to the hospital with him. This is where their accounts of the situation start to differ.

Officers Carmouche and Allen state that Ricks fell on top of his grandmother in a chair in the living room. But, Sgt. Joffrion and Officer Kirk claim she was pushed into the chair by Ricks. All four claim that Jones yelled for help to get Ricks off of her. At this point, three of the officers state that Ricks was removed from on top of Jones and was handcuffed. But, Officer Kirk said Ricks refused to get off and a struggle ensued before they handcuffed him. That is when they took Ricks to the patrol car.

“They were called out for medical attention,” said Jones. “If my brother refused medical attention, they should have left when Acadian Ambulance left.”

Officer Carmouche states that at that time Ricks began to yell that the officers were going to beat him and that he had not been advised of his rights. Ricks then sat in the backseat of a police car with his legs still outside of the car. Officers state he would not put his feet inside, adding that two knee strikes were performed to no avail.

All four officers stated that Sgt. Joffrion decided to drive stun Ricks with a Taser, which means that the cartridge was removed. They all say after he was drive stunned, he put his legs inside of the vehicle. That is when they made their way to the DC 1 jail, not the hospital.

“So, how did he end up at the jailhouse? What was he arrested for? What crime did he commit? He did not commit no crime,” said Jones.

It is important to note that up until this point, only Officer Kirk states in his report to Louisiana State Police what Ricks would be charged with - simple battery and resisting arrest. And, Officer Kirk only stated that the decision was made after Ricks was handcuffed and drive stunned.

From the house, all four APD members then arrived at the DC 1 jail with Ricks at 10:43 p.m. Ricks was in Officer Kirk’s police car.

From here, KALB has the surveillance video from inside and outside of the jail, from the moment Ricks arrived to when he left on a stretcher just over 30 minutes later. It is important to note that our station obtained this video back in 2012 through the Freedom of Information Act, although Ricks’ family claims that until a recent viral video related to the case was released, they never saw this video.

“I’m like, what video? They told me what to go type in and I type it in and I got a look and that’s when we see everything,” said Jones.

We spoke with Carol Powell-Lexing, who represented Ricks’ father in a federal civil lawsuit in 2012, who confirmed to us that she asked for the video during discovery. But, further questions about what she remembers from the case were difficult for her to answer given that it was over a decade ago.

Ricks was removed from the police car at 10:48 p.m., when two Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies, James Brunet and Jason Walker, came to assist APD. Once Ricks is walked toward the glass doors of the jail, the surveillance video shows Ricks pulling away from law enforcement - what Officer Carmouche called “kicking and jerking away” in his statement.

Ricks eventually fell to the ground, with officers and deputies going down with him.

Almost two minutes later, Ricks is picked back up - remember, he’s handcuffed. From there, he is carried into the jail toward the elevator.

Surveillance video shows that Ricks is carried for the rest of the time that he is in the jail.

“He was never sat back up once they got him out of that patrol car,” said Jones. “And, of course, he was afraid to get out of that patrol car, because they had already been hitting and beating on him and tasering him.”

When they got to the fourth floor and got off the elevator, the group is met by Deputy Kory Deville and then-Deputy Mark Wood, who is now the sheriff of Rapides Parish. They continue to carry Ricks down the hallway before Ricks falls to the ground again. It is then that Deputy Wood kicks Ricks, but accounts differ on where Ricks is kicked. According to a statement from Deputy Wood, he said he kicked Ricks in the shoulder area. After seeing the video, Ricks’ family disagrees and believes he was kicked in the head.

“All parties need to be held accountable,” said Jones. “But, for that in that video, you specifically kick a mentally ill person, that is obviously not how that is supposed to go. Law enforcement is supposed to protect and serve us. Obviously, we’re not being protected if that’s the type of treatment that you’re getting.”

In an affidavit taken two and half years later, Deputy Wood said that at no point while Ricks was in the jail was he informed that Ricks was schizophrenic or had suffered a seizure.

They walked Ricks further down the hallway but had to continue to wait for the isolation cell to be cleared. During that time, multiple law enforcement accounts said Ricks was struggling.

In an interview with Louisiana State Police, Deputy Brunet told investigators that he told Ricks that if he did not stop kicking and resisting that he was going to tase him. Deputy Brunet stated that Ricks said he “didn’t give a damn” and continued to kick. That is when Deputy Brunet took a Taser away from Deputy Deville and drive stunned Ricks for two to three seconds on his lower back.

We do not have a clear video of when Ricks was tased, but Deputy Wood and Deputy Walker claimed that after being tased, Ricks said, “Okay. Okay. I’m cool.”

Ricks’ family shared that they are still confused as to why he was tased twice that night.

“I couldn’t tell you what I really think in their heads what was going on, but what I think is that they abused their power and excessive force was used,” said Jones.

When the cell was cleared, Ricks was brought inside. At this point, we do not have video from inside of the cell. According to several law enforcement accounts, Ricks was found to be unresponsive. About a minute later, Officer Carmouche checked his pulse and determined he was not breathing. Officer Carmouche, who is also a paramedic, told deputies to get the AED and call for Acadian Ambulance. While Officer Carmouche began administering CPR, he sent Sgt. Joffrion to get his medic bag from his patrol car. After that, Officer Carmouche started an IV on Ricks and continued administering aid.

Acadian Ambulance arrived at 11:15 p.m. Ricks was brought out of the cell at 11:24 p.m. on a stretcher with a paramedic continuing chest compressions.

Ricks was brought to the Rapides Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 12:13 a.m. on Feb. 6.

His official cause of death was excited delirium due to schizophrenia and cocaine toxicity following a struggle. The manner of death was listed as an accident.

Excited delirium is a diagnosis of a potentially deadly state of agitation and delirium, also described as an overdose of adrenaline.

According to Ricks’ autopsy performed by pathologist Dr. Christopher Tape, Ricks had high levels of cocaine in his system. In Ricks’ toxicology report, Dr. Michael Evans estimates Ricks had ingested a lethal dose of the drug.

Dr. Tape goes on to say that cocaine use alone can be a cause of excited delirium, but so can schizophrenia, stating, “Most likely the schizophrenia and cocaine acted in concert to initiate the excited delirium and death.”

The autopsy showed that Ricks’ body also had signs of physiological stress and that those same hormones are at their peak a few minutes after a struggle in deaths attributed to excited delirium, but states that Taser devices are not likely to be a cause of death.

“It’s bull crap,” said Jones of the excited delirium determination. “Anybody if you look online, look up the Taser deaths, anyone who has died after being tased, they’re going to use that term excited delirium.”

It is important to note that in the present day, some consider excited delirium to be a controversial diagnosis, and is not widely recognized by many health organizations. But in the toxicology report, Dr. Evans noted Ricks exhibited several signs of excited delirium during interactions with law enforcement.

According to the APD’s policy and procedure for Taser use, officers must be aware of a subject’s condition, including if the subject is in a state of excited delirium “prior to being tased,” adding that those exhibiting excited delirium should be transported to the nearest medical facility as soon as possible.

As we know, Ricks ended up being taken to the jail instead and was tased twice that night, despite apparently showing signs of excited delirium.

By the time the lawsuit was filed by Robert Ricks’ father came to a conclusion in the summer of 2015, only Taser International remained as a defendant. The others were dismissed by Judge Dee Drell through motions over the years. On June 4, 2015, a jury sided with Taser International, and the claims against the company were dismissed.

Now, more than a decade later after the night her brother died, Jones is hoping that her letter to the U.S. Department of Justice may lead to his case being reopened, this time by the FBI. She also wants criminal charges filed and is calling on those in law enforcement who were there that night, including now-Sheriff Mark Wood, to step down.

We reached out to Sheriff Wood for comment on Jones’ letter and claims and received this statement from his office.

We also reached out to the City of Alexandria since the police department was a part of the case. We received this statement back from police Chief Ronney Howard.

Jones is optimistic that she will hear back on her letter and the people she sent it to, including Governor John Bel Edwards, Attorney General Jeff Landry, and the legislative members investigating the Ronald Greene case.

“I expect to hear something back,” said Jones. “There’s no way this can go unnoticed. There’s too much evidence that is out there, especially with this video footage showing the conduct, the mishandling conduct of a mentally ill man.”

KALB reached out to state Rep. Ed Larvadain (D-District 26), who was an Alexandria City Council member at the time of Ricks’ death and is copied on the letter that Jones sent. He had this to say about the letter and the call for an investigation.

“I would like for it to be investigated and let the facts come out,” said Rep. Larvadain. “The family has a right to know the truth. They have to know what went on with their brother, why their brother died in the Rapides Parish Detention Center and the facts surrounding it. And then, once the family figures that out, they can deal with it. But, the not knowing is the trauma, and then that’s the confusion the family has. They just want the truth. They can deal with whatever happens. They just want the truth.”

Jones tells us she is in the process of looking for an attorney to represent her. There is no word yet on if the FBI will accept the case and re-examine it.

Destiny Jones’ Full Letter:

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