A Louisiana schoolteacher is suing the St. Tammany Parish sheriff for the return of her late son’s shotgun deputies seized more than three years ago.
“It was the first gun David ever had. I gave it to him when he was 10-years-old and he was so proud of it he carved his initials into the stock,” said Sherrie Buras Manton, who with her husband Norman J. Manton, Jr., are trying to make things right again. Her son David J. Manton died in 2010 in a freak gun accident.
In the complaint, Manton said her First and Second Amendment rights were violated when St. Tammany deputies Jan. 24, 2008 entered the family home seized and conspired to seize a Bible and other religious items belonging to the Manton family and a Remington 870 Youth Model 20-gauge shotgun with the initials “DJM” her late son carved in the stock.
The First Amendment complaint refers to the religous items seized, which affect the Manton’s right to free exercise of religion.
In Louisiana, a parish, such as St. Tammany, functions as a county would in other states.
Manton said the seizures were connected to a January 2008 incident, when her husband was falsely identified by an eye witness of participating in an attempted bank fraud case.
The eye witness testified in a deposition that police officers pressured her to incorrectly name Manton’s husband, she said. The state attorney general’s office released the husband after the sheriff held him for more than 90 days.
A spokesman from the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’ office Sgt. Sean L. Beavers said he could not confirm or deny whether the shotgun was seized, kept or returned or otherwise comment because it is a matter of ongoing litigation.
Beavers said he did not have access to the evidence storage room, so he could not check himself.
All questions regarding the Manton suit must be handled by the parish’s lawyer Charles M. “Chuck” Hughes Jr., he said.
Beavers said he passed on questions to Hughes and Human Events also left messsages with Hughes.
Daniel G. Abel, lead counsel for the petitioner in the matter of Sherrie Buras Manton, et al. v. Sheriff Rodney Strain, et al. said the federal lawsuit alleges ongoing illegal activity committed by the St. Tammany sheriff’s office.
The activity springs from a racist, sexist and arrogant culture of crooks, he said.
Abel said the St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s office secured a search warrant of the Manton residence based upon this false identification.
“The search warrant contained no references to a firearm or religious material, yet that did not stop the police officers from ransacking the Manton home, and illegally seizing their personal items,” he said.
Although, criminal charges against Manton’s husband were dropped, when the schoolteacher, attempted to obtain the items illegally seized from her home, those items were never returned, and multiple requests for them were ignored, he said.
The shotgun meant more to her son than its purchase price, she said.
“He learned to shot and hunt with it,” she said. “Hunting with his Dad and friends was David’s pasttime, along with the rosary we gave him, these were his most prized possessions.” The couple gave their son the rosary beads for his First Communion.
The schoolteacher said deputies told her she would never get the shotgun back and that it is no longer at the sheriff’s department.
Besides the shotgun and the rosary beads, the Mantons have not received back a Missal, a book Catholics use to follow along with Mass and other religious ceremonies, a Bible and two St. Francis medals blessed by Pope John Paul II and two medal commemorating “Our Lady of Medjurgorje” and private journals Sherrie used while attending religious retreats, she said.
A leading gun rights advocacy group requested Nov. 26 that federal authorities investigate a Louisiana parish sheriff’s department for illegally seizing and selling confiscated firearms.
“In violation of the Gun Control Act of 1968, the St. Tammany sheriff’s office has an ongoing and seemingly lucrative business in the sale of illegally confiscated firearms,” said Richard Feldman, president of Rindge, N.H.-based Independent Firearm Owners Association.
Feldman, a former police officer, said his request for a formal investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will uncover and document practices alleged in a lawsuit against the sheriff. “St. Tammany’s long history of confiscation of firearms and abuses of process is exactly what our Founders tried to avert.”
Feldman, who is co-counsel to the plaintiff, said, “The modus operendi of the St. Tammany sheriff’s department is to arrest people, particularly black people, confiscate their property and then just drop the charges.” The sheriff then turns around and sells the confiscated firearms, weed whackers and all sorts of items for the sole purpose of selling such property in a black market for private gain.
Abel said this is not the first time Strain was involved in improperly seizing firearms.
Manton also said in her complaint that the sheriff is in violation of a court order issued after the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment Foundation in 2005 sued Strain and New Orleans Mayor Clarence “Ray” Nagin Jr., for their practice of seizing firearms legally- owned by residents of St. Tammany Parish and Orleans Parish after Hurricane Katrina.
Feldman said, “In addition to trafficking illegally seized private property for financial gain the sheriff is in violation of a court order.”
Strain’s deputies are trouble and on the loose, he said.
They were unable to distinguish the bad guys from the good ones, he said.
An example of their unprofessional and rogue behavior is the 2006 case of a 37-year old law office manager Shane Gates, who was pulled over by two deputies, he said.
Gates was pulled over is because the deputies misidentified the motor vehicle, Feldman said.
“The deputies ordered Gates out of his car, put him in handcuffs and proceeded soon afterwards to pound his face into the road repeatedly, causing two eye injuries that required surgery and 27 stitches,” he said.
Abel said local local news sources called it police brutality and a cover-up when the police report alleged Gates was drunk and speeding.
A 12-member jury returned a speedy not guilty verdict at trial, he said. But, six years later, the parish is charging Gates with misdemeanor resisting arrest in connection with the other charges for which he was acquitted, Abel said.
Feldman said the misdemeanor charge is double jeopardy and it is proof that parish authorities are pursuing a vendetta against Gates because he filed a civil lawsuit against them, he said.
Abel said the misdemeanor resisting arrest charge is a dodge to excuse the suits claim of police brutality. “How convenient.”
Strain is not the only Louisiana sheriff in trouble with the law.
Former Winn Parish Sheriff Bodie Little was convicted in February of intent to distribute meth, drug trafficking and sent to prison.
Former St. Helena Parish Sheriff Ronald “Gun” Ficklin pleaded guilty to 17 various charges connected to operating a stolen car and auto parts racket. He died in prison in October 2011.
Former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Irvin “Jiff” Hingle pleaded guilty for taking bribes. His sentencing hearing has been postponed several times, and his attorneys requested a further extension into next summer.
Former Ouachita Parish Sheriff Royce Toney is currently on trial on 23 counts, ranging from mail fraud and identity theft to retaliating against a victim.