SHREVEPORT, La. – The Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office maintains that its correctional officers didn’t do anything wrong, after video of officers getting rough with an inmate surfaced on social media.
Heather Stevenson Brantley posted three videos on Facebook Tuesday evening. As of Thursday morning, the post has been shared more than 1,200 times and one of the videos had more than 26,000 views.
Brantley captioned the videos, “What CCC did to my cousin.”
Brantley’s cousin, Princeton Vallo, was an inmate at the Caddo Correctional Center for 18 months in 2017 and 2018, according to a lawyer representing CPSO. He was being held on a charge of unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling.
The first video in the Facebook shows four correctional officers opening the door to a cell and punching the man inside until he is face-down on the floor. The officers then place handcuffs on the man. Another officer can be seen watching from several feet away.
In a second video, a guest is visiting the inmate, who is behind glass. The inmate’s head turns and he appears to be speaking with someone out of the frame. He stands up and appears to be gathering papers on the counter, when one officer rushes toward the inmate and pushes him to the ground with two hands. Two other offers rush in and try to put the inmate in handcuffs.
The third video shows an officer walking the inmate toward a cell. The inmate is in handcuffs. There appears to be a struggle once the pair reaches the door to the cell, and the officer pulls the inmate to the ground. The inmate’s legs flail and kick before the officer throws at least one punch. A second officer eventually arrives to help constrain the inmate.
All three videos are low-quality; they are shot vertically on a mobile phone that’s pointed at a computer screen playing the original videos.
Vallo is no longer incarcerated. He filed a lawsuit in October on his own behalf. Vallo claims in the suit that he was beaten by Caddo correctional officers on four separate occasions during his time in the jail.
"That’s a violation of my due process," Vallo told 3 Investigates.
Vallo said he requested pictures and X-rays showing the extent of his injuries during the discovery process but never received them.
Edwin Byrd is the attorney representing the sheriff’s office. He said Vallo’s claims are meritless, and that all information Vallo requested was turned over.
According to Byrd, Vallo has a documented history of mental illness and that during his time in CCC, Vallo was considered a Level 2 inmate. Level 2 inmates are classified as dangerous and must be in handcuffs whenever they are not in a cell.
"The main point is (Vallo) understood the rule,” Byrd said. “He understood that he was a danger and had been classified as that, and the deputies are taught to get such an inmate under control as quickly as possible. He could easily injure another inmate. He's got multiple fights with other inmates. I think that's what led to the classification early on."
Vallo does not consider himself dangerous.
"(I) never punched, never scratched, never argued with nobody," Vallo said. "I got put on Level 2 for saying, ‘Why can't I brush my teeth today? Why cant I take a shower today?’"
Byrd said the officers that appear in the videos are part of an emergency response team. He said during Vallo’s 18 months in jail, the team responded to the inmate’s conduct 24 or 25 times. Byrd called that number of responses "unbelievable."
Byrd said the videos from inside the jail – including some not posted on Facebook – were carefully reviewed by authorities and did not reveal any wrongdoing. No disciplinary action was taken.
"The critical issue is that no force was used after (Vallo) was compliant, and there's a real serious reason that they have to use that kind of force on him like that,” Byrd said. “I think it's important for people to understand that."
According to Byrd, Vallo sustained nothing more than bruises as a result of the scuffles with officers.
Federal court records reveal Vallo’s history of filing lawsuits on his own behalf against jailers.
In 2017, Vallo filed two lawsuits against officers at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel. One of the lawsuits alleges an officer beat him while he was in cuffs. The other seeks damages because Vallo slipped and hit his head either climbing up or down from his bunk bed (the complaint did not specify any further).
A 2016 lawsuit claims Vallo was stabbed by a fellow inmate, and accuses jailers of not doing enough to protect him.
The previous lawsuits are “closed.”
The parties in the Caddo lawsuit have until Aug. 26 to file dispositive motions. Byrd told 3 Investigates he’s optimistic the suit will be dismissed.
Vallo, who is black, said this is not an issue of race.
"If it was white officers beating me, the whole city would be, ‘Oh, it’s black on white. It’s racist again,'" Vallo said. "It would be a big deal. But it’s black officers doing it, so where’s the real problem? It’s officers of the law breaking the law and getting away with it because they have a badge. That’s what it seems to boil down to."