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Judge dismisses wrongful-death lawsuit in 2012 NOPD case

30th March 2015   ·   0 Comments

A federal judge on Tuesday tossed out a civil rights and wrongful-death lawsuit filed against a former NOPD officer by a New Orleans family whose loved one was fatally shot by police three years ago as he headed to work at a Burger King restaurant near City Park.

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan dismissed the lawsuit against former NOPD officer Jason Giroir and cleared him of any wrongdoing in the deadly March 2012 traffic stop.

Justin Sipp, 20, was killed in the incident which took place as he was being driven to work by his 24-year-old brother Earl Sipp.



The fatal police shooting, which took place within a week of another fatal NOPD shooting involving another 20-year-old Black man, Wendell Allen, led to a downtown march and rally for racial justice and an end to the use of excessive and deadly force by the NOPD.

Racial tensions in the case were not eased by the remarks of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who called the officers wounded in the incident “heroes.” The remark struck a raw nerve in the Black community, bringing to many residents’ minds the many signs that called the seven cops that killed two unarmed Black men and wounded four unarmed others on the Danziger Bridge “Heroes” as they turned themselves in after being charged by then Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan.

The officers involved in the fatal shooting were working an off-duty paid detail when the shooting oc­curred.

According to police reports, Justin Sipp was armed and initiated gunfire with Giroir and NOPD officers Tony Mayfield and Michael Asevedo. They contend that Justin Sipp refused to step out of the car when Giroir asked him to do so, at one point engaged in a scuffle that sent Giroir to the ground and fired 14 shots from a .38-caliber firearm at the three officers.

Earl Sipp, whom police said was unarmed and shot in the leg, and his father filed the federal lawsuit on February 26, 2013. Former NOPD officer Jason Giroir filed a countersuit against Justin and Earl Sipp eight days later. That suit remains unresolved.

The Sipp lawsuit contended that Giroir had “a history of racial profiling …and racist acts” which played a role in the fatal shooting of Justin Sipp.

Giroir resigned from the NOPD less than a month after the fatal shooting after being suspended for posting racially insensitive remarks on a local television news website about the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by Neighborhood Watch captain George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla.

“Act like a Thug Die like one!” wrote in the online posting.

Judge Berrigan ruled that a problem with the car’s license plate and Justin Sipp’s reaction to being stopped by police “made him an immediate threat to the safety if all three officers on the scene.”

Regarding Giroir’s use of gunfire in the incident, Berrigan said, “His response was not objectively unreasonable to the situation that arose from Justin Sipp’s resistance and shooting.”

Berrigan rejected an argument in the Sipp lawsuit that pointed to a 2006 case involving Giroir after which the City of New Orleans reached a settlement with a woman who said the officer used racial bias in his dealings with her.

“That settlement does not constitute proof that Giroir admitted to any culpability,” Berrigan said. “Any allegation that Giroir acted out of racial animus in his treatment of Earl Sipp III and Justin Sipp, even if the allegation was proven, is misplaced in an attempt to overcome a qualified immunity defense to an excessive force claim when the use of force was objectively reasonable.”

“Knowing the facts and circumstances of how the shooting occurred, the judge clearly recognized Officer Giroir was acting within the scope of his duties as a police officer and that actions were both responsible and necessary,” Eric Hessler, Giroir’s attorney, told

While Hessler said his client regretted the remarks he posted about Trayvon Martin, the attorney felt compelled to explain why Giroir made those controversial remarks.

“No one argues those remarks should not nave been made,” Hessler told “But it’s important to remember his comments had been made only one day after he learned that a bullet had lodged in his Taser and, but for a couple of inches, he could have been crippled or killed.”

“This is disturbing but not surprising,” the Rev. Raymond Brown, a community activist and president of National Action Now, told The Louisiana Weekly. “Even though the federal government and the U.S. Department of Justice are supposed to protect everybody’s constitutional rights, again and again we see the Feds letting local police departments get away with murder and police brutality.

“Even though the NOPD was in negotiations for its federally mandated consent decree, Justin Sipp and Wendell Allen were still gunned down by police, and in the midst of the consent decree we still see cops turning off body cameras as they shoot people in the head.

“Anyone concerned about racial justice and constitutional policing in New Orleans has to be disturbed by this ruling,” Brown added.

“Was Justin Sipp ‘acting like a thug’ by getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning to go to work at Burger King?” Ramessu Merria­men Aha, a New Orleans businessman and former congressional candidate, told The Louisiana Weekly. “We’ve already seen the emails from that Mid-City Security District pressuring cops to racially profile more residents without just cause, and we know that Officer Giroir had allegedly demonstrated questionable behavior in his dealings with Black residents in the past, but none of that seemed to matter in this case.

“This nation’s justice system needs to be completely disassembled and reconstructed from the ground up,” Aha added.

W.C. Johnson, a member of Community United for Change and host of local cable-access show “OurStory,” did not mince his words when asked about the federal government’s role in failed efforts to hold the NOPD accountable for its unconstitutional policing and abusive practices.

“The Department of Justice came to New Orleans in 2010 with a mandate to clean up the corruption that has affected the ‘color of law,” Johnson told The Louisiana Weekly. “What in fact the DOJ has done is construct a ‘Trojan horse’ and kill the only other avenue of legal hope left to a people who have Consti­tutional rights, privileges and protections withheld because of who they are. Not only are the Black people of New Orleans finding themselves without any protections, Blacks in other cities and states have and continue to experience the same lack of juris prudence as Blacks in New Orleans.

“You can say this is not a Black thing,” Johnson continued, “but what other group of people in America had to have a Consti­tutional Amendment to cover their being under the law. America is forcing the race question. America is forcing a race war. New Orleans, with its Black police chief, is experiencing the ‘Angola Syndrome’: Black inmates, called trustees, carrying guns to control the prison population. The same is true with any city that employs Blacks as police officers. The same is true with the U.S. government that employees a President and an Attorney General, who happen to be Black but cannot stop the senseless killings of Blacks by white police officers.

“How it is possible that whites, routinely have encounters with the police and few if any get wounded or killed? All law enforcement agencies in America have problems administering justice, without prejudice, to people who fall under the 13th Amendment. Why?

“The federal government holds more responsibility than local law enforcement agencies,” Johnson said, “because the federal government is supposed to be the ultimate authority and the ultimate protectors in the Democratic Republic of America.”

Additional reporting by Louisiana Weekly editor Edmund W. Lewis.◊

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