Pod 2E during the protest. (Photo provided by the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office)

Several detainees in the New Orleans jail say they sustained serious injuries — including one who said he was hospitalized for over a week with two collapsed lungs — from law enforcement officers during an operation to end a three-day protest in their housing unit last month, despite claims from Orleans Parish Sheriff Susan Hutson that only minor injuries were reported from the raid.

On Friday, Aug. 12, a group of detainees barricaded themselves inside housing pod 2E, claiming they were being mistreated by Sheriff’s Office staff, and issued a letter of demands for improved living conditions. The protest lasted until that Sunday, when officers raided the unit and retook it. 

In the following days and weeks, Hutson repeatedly claimed that officers were able to pull off the raid without causing major injuries to detainees. Of the more than 40 people barricaded inside the unit, only five were sent to the hospital with minor cuts and bruises, Hutson said. Another man, who is diabetic, had to be hospitalized after refusing offers of insulin during the protest, according to the Sheriff’s Office. 

But in interviews this week, three men who were incarcerated in pod 2E told The Lens that officers shot them with bean-bag rounds and rubber bullets even though they had visibly complied with orders to surrender. One said he spent more than a week in the hospital with two collapsed lungs and several broken ribs. Another said he is still waiting for surgery to be done on a serious bone fracture in his upper arm. 

“I almost died,” said Jarrell Stevenson, the man who said his lungs had collapsed after being shot with a bean-bag round and beaten by officers. “I almost lost my life.”

These newly reported injuries add to a growing list of accounts from inside the jail that contradict Hutson’s official statements on the protest and the raid. Earlier this week, The Lens reported that the diabetic man, Ronald Craige, disputed the Sheriff’s Office’s claim that the Sheriff’s Office offered him insulin over the weekend of the protest. He also said that one of the officers involved in the raid kicked him in the face after he was handcuffed, causing injuries that had to be treated at the hospital. 

On the evening of Aug. 14, officers with the Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana Department of Corrections breached the barricaded unit. Sheriff’s Office officials said that the officers used bean bag rounds, flash bangs, and a sting ball grenade.

Speaking at a New Orleans City Council committee meeting the next day, Hutson acknowledged that some detainees were being treated for injuries but said they were mostly minor cuts, and even suggested that some of their injuries were self-inflicted. When The Lens asked for more details on the nature of the injuries and how they were sustained, Hutson’s office declined to comment citing detainees’ “privacy rights.” On Friday, Aug. 26, the Sheriff’s Office issued a statement again claiming that all reported injuries were minor. 

A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office declined to answer questions about the new detainee accounts, citing an ongoing investigation. 

The Lens has requested any use of force reports related to the raid, along with body camera and security footage. None has been provided. 

‘They came in shootin’’

The three detainees interviewed this week told The Lens that they were shot with less-lethal munitions after surrendering to officers. All three say they suffered from broken or fractured bones as a result of the shots. And two of them say that, like Craige, they were also kicked and beaten by officers while on the ground. 

Stevenson — who is in jail awaiting trial on a number of charges including domestic abuse, aggravated burglary and illegal possession of a firearm — told The Lens that he was shot by a bean-bag round despite having his hands in the air when officers entered the pod. 

“They came in shootin’,” Stevenson said. “I had my hands up. And I got shot at point blank range in my rib cage.” 

Jarrell Stevenson, who says he suffered several broken ribs and two collapsed lungs during a raid at the jail last month. (Photo courtesy of Nell Clark.)

The shot broke several ribs and resulted in two collapsed lungs, he said. 

Stevenson said he wasn’t sure whether it was a DOC officer or an OPSO deputy who shot him. But he said that after he was shot, it was DOC officers who continued to punch and kick him.

“They started punching and kicking me in the head and stuff,”  Stevenson said. “I couldn’t resist because I was shot in my rib cage and I was holding my stomach.” 

A spokesperson for the DOC did not respond to a request for comment.

Stevenson said that immediately following the incident he was given a bandage and told he would need X-rays, but instead of a hospital, he was taken to a cell with no mattress or blankets. He told his cell mate that he couldn’t breathe. When deputies came to check on him that evening, he said that he was bleeding badly. 

“That’s when they decided that I needed to go to the hospital,” Stevenson said. 

He was kept there for more than a week. Court records show that on Aug.18, and again on Aug. 23, Stevenson missed his court dates because he was in the hospital. 

Stevenson said was finally brought back to jail on Aug. 24. But initially, he says that he was not provided with any medication to deal with the pain. Only after repeated calls by family members to the jail to advocate on his behalf was he provided with ibuprofen. 

Fox 8 interviewed Stevenson’s mother outside of the jail last week about his injuries. She told the station that she didn’t find out about them until a week after he was taken to the hospital. 

Nell Clark, Stevenson’s girlfriend, said in an interview with The Lens this week that the Sheriff’s Office hasn’t been providing them with any information about his condition, and that his family only found out he was in the hospital because it was indicated in the court records. 

“It was like they were trying to keep it a secret,” she said of the Sheriff’s Office. “Somebody should have been reached out in that situation. That’s considered life and death. That’s not nothing that was minor.”

‘I got down on the ground. I still got shot.’

Rodney Stanbank, another detainee who was on pod 2E, says that he got down on the ground to surrender to guards when they entered the barricaded unit, but still suffered injuries from the less-lethal munitions. 

“When they came in, they said, ‘Surrender,’ and I surrendered,” Stanbank, who is in jail on drugs and weapons charges, said. “I got down on the ground. I still got shot.”

He also says that he was kicked by guards while he was on the ground and not resisting. 

“They kicked me when I was on the ground and handcuffed,” he said. “They kicked me in my neck.” 

The shot from the munitions fractured his left arm from my elbow to his wrist, he said. But since then, he says he has only been given Tylenol and ibuprofen for his pain, and a cast hasn’t been put on his arm. 

Gregory Matthews — who was jailed last year on charges of rape and indecent behavior with juveniles and was ordered into state mental health treatment last month, according to court records — also told The Lens that he was shot by guards while he was laying on the ground, and the projectile fractured his upper arm.

 (Both Matthews and Stanbank said the officers were using rubber bullets, which Hutson’s office did not include in its list of munitions deployed in the raid. Since the Sheriff’s Office declined to answer questions for this story and has not provided reports or video, it’s not clear whether the men had mistaken other projectiles, such as bean-bag rounds, for rubber bullets.)

“They shot me while I was on the ground and snapped my arm in half,” Matthews said.

He says he wasn’t taken to the hospital until a few days later, when a deputy noticed swelling. 

At the hospital, doctors said he needed surgery, he said. But the procedure has been delayed, and he has been transferred back to the jail while he is waiting. Currently his arm is in a half cast from his wrist to his shoulder, and in a sling, he said. 

“I want my surgery as soon as possible,” Matthews said.

Nick Chrastil

Nicholas Chrastil covers criminal justice for The Lens. As a freelancer, his work has appeared in Slate, Undark, Mother Jones, and the Atavist, among other outlets. Chrastil has a master's degree in mass...