There’s a hearing Monday in the 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna, in a lawsuit against the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office for the body-cam worn by deputies who shot 18-year-old Calvin Cains (pictured, above), on June 6.

Mallory Cains wants to see footage of her son’s last minutes on earth, before he was shot dead by Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputies on June 6.

Officer body camera video will confirm her narrative to the world about her son’s death, she said. “People gonna know what happened. They’re gonna know it’s wrongful.”

On Monday (October 2) Cains’ lawyer will argue for the release of the footage and other related records before a judge in the 24th Judicial Court District in Gretna.

The Sheriff’s Office contends that Cains’ 18-year-old son, Calvin Cains, attempted to drive over a deputy, who shot into the windshield, killing him.

Untrue, says Mallory Cains, who was a few hundred feet away during the incident, in the parking lots of the Lumiere Apartments in Metairie. She says that the plainclothes deputies, who were in unmarked trucks, moved without announcing themselves or giving her son a chance to surrender.

Though she did not see the shooting, she heard the gunshots and saw first-hand that her son’s car was blocked in on all sides, by three vehicles and a fence – making his alleged movement impossible, she said.

Officers’ accounts also didn’t match the observations of another witness, who says she was speaking on FaceTime with Calvin Cains moments before he was shot.

Within two weeks, she had asked the agency to prove their contentions by showing her the video from the body cameras worn by involved officers. 

In a denial letter dated July 12, JPSO records custodian Cherie Blanchard told her that among the documents directly related to the incident, only the initial report for the shooting would be made public while the investigation is ongoing. But at that time, the incident report had not yet been completed and was thus not available, Blanchard wrote. 

Last month, she filed suit against the agency’s public records custodian, demanding that JPSO turn over a host of records she had requested earlier in the summer, including body camera footage from the scene.

Louisiana public-records law contains certain bedrock standards: agencies must respond to requests within the three days required by state law and either turn over the records or explain why the records won’t be made public. Mallory Cains alleges that JPSO has failed on both of those counts.

Cain’s lawyer DeShawn Hayes said Thursday that he has recently received some of the requested records, including the initial incident report, personnel records for two officers and the department’s use of force policy. 

But they have not received body camera footage. Hayes said that after the initial request was denied, he suggested that Mallory Cains and himself be able to at least review the footage at the JPSO office, but that was declined. 

JPSO has only been wearing body cameras for about a year, so they don’t have well -established patterns about releasing footage. After any crime, particularly an officer-involved shooting, law-enforcement and prosecutors often withhold incident-related records from the public for unspecified periods, by citing that the incident is still “under investigation.”

JPSO also has held onto a licensed firearm that they took during a search of the apartment rented by Mallory Cains, a security officer.  That was contrary to promises made by the detective who spoke with her about it, she said. “He saw my uniform and said, ‘Is that your work gun? We just wanna run ballistics on it. You can come to the station and get it back the next day.’”

Cains knew exactly where JPSO offices were, because she works in law enforcement and had worked for 17 years for two local sheriff’s offices, JPSO and the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office. But when she went to JPSO’s property room the following day, she was told by the woman there that she might not get her firearm back “for months.”

Her detailed records request also reflects her knowledge and experience in the justice system, asking for specific office-wide policies and trainings, as well as types of reports that could be in an officer’s file. 

All the delays and reasons not to release things make Cains suspicious. “They’ve been stalling,” she said. “To me, I feel like something is not adding up in their investigation.” 

By contrast, after JPSO deputies shot and killed Kevin Veal in a gas-station bathroom in March, the video was released within the same week – because it supported their actions, she said. “That’s because the video showed that he gave them a fight and pulled out a gun, giving him probable cause for them to shoot him.”

In her official denial to Cains, Blanchard cited a broad part of public records law that outlines the exemptions for law enforcement agencies. 

Cains argues that the records are particularly important because of the alleged wrongdoing – “the fatal shooting of an unarmed individual.” 

That goes beyond the shooting of Calvin Cains, she wrote in her lawsuit: The release of those records — ”particularly the body cam footage” — is of “public interest…to assure that citizens’ constitutional rights are not being violated.”

Nick Chrastil and Katy Reckdahl contributed to this report.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...