2nd suit filed in double killing
A second lawsuit in the Jan. 26 Charenton killings of Eddie Lyons Sr., 78, and Chitimacha tribal officer Sgt. Frederick “Rick” Riggenbach, 52, was filed Monday against St. Mary Parish Sheriff Mark Hebert and the accused gunman, Wilbert Thibodeaux.
The incident also left two sheriff’s deputies and Thibodeaux wounded in a gun battle.
The suit filed by the family of Lyons in 16th Judicial Court followed a suit filed for the Riggenbach family on Jan. 17 making similar assertions for damages.
The Lyons suit for damages against Thibodeaux and the others stated there was “severe and extreme pain and suffering experienced by Mr. Lyons after he was shot but prior to his death.”
The Lyons suit adds the St. Mary Parish 911 Communications District as a defendant.
Thibodeaux has been jailed on two murder charges and other offenses and has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation as to his mental fitness to go to trial.
The suit is more than just an issue of recovering unspecified monetary damages, Gordon Bush II, plaintiff’s attorney, said.
“The sequence of events that day was tragic. The Lyons family believes this is an issue that affects more than just them and they are sensitive that this is a tragedy that affects many other families that have also been touched by the event,” Bush said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions. One of the primary goals of this suit is to get some of those answers … no amount of money will bring this family’s father back.”
Bush said those named in the petition — Loretta Lyons, Edward Lyons, Eddie Lyons Jr. and Ronald Lyons — are all the surviving children of the slain Eddie Lyons Sr.
Bush, a former prosecutor in Ascension Parish, said he is sensitive to concerns regarding the ongoing criminal prosecution of Thibodeaux and does not want to compromise its prosecution. But he hopes that in the discovery process of the suit, the family will be provided records and possible tapes and videos giving a definitive picture of what happened that fateful Saturday morning.
The Lyons’ lawsuit echoes many of the claims made by the Riggenbach family. Both suits claim Thibodeaux made threats against Riggenbach’s life after he arrested Thibodeaux four days before the murder on a disorderly conduct charge.
The suits stated Thibodeaux was known to suffer from severe mental disorders and he had for weeks, possibly months, been in a deteriorating condition. The suit asserted there was insufficient screening of Thibodeaux when he was released after posting bail two days after his arrest and two days before the murders.
Sheriff’ spokeswoman Traci Landry said the department cannot comment on pending litigation. In an unrelated interview, Landry said individual due process requires the detention center to release prisoners once a bail has been posted.
Bush made it plain the family is not accusing anyone of pursuing a course that intentionally hurt anybody but they want to present evidence to a jury they say supports their contention there were negligent acts and/or omissions by sheriff’s office employees, the detention center and the 911 communications center.
The Lyons’ suit makes the additional assertion that Thibodeaux shot Lyons in “the yard of his residence after deputies responded to the wrong address” regarding a complaint involving Thibodeaux earlier in the morning.
After being shot by Thibodeaux, Lyons retreated to his trailer, the suit stated. “Shortly thereafter … Thibodeaux set fire to Mr. Lyons property, as Mr. Lyons was left bleeding from the gunshot would, waiting on emergency response personnel that failed to reach Mr. Lyons before (he) was engulfed in the fire,” the suit stated.
The suit said a “stand down” order from the sheriff’s department was issued to all law enforcement near the scene of the crime and that order contributed to “no emergency personnel being able to search for and rescue Mr. Lyons.”
The Lyons suit, like the Riggenbach suit, asserted that one of the two responding deputies, Matthew Strickland, was new to the department and “had not yet obtaining his Peace Officer Standards and Training certification.”
Both suits state Strickland and Deputy Jason Javier were wounded, backed out of the scene in their unit and entered a second police unit and left the area.
Both suits request damages from the actions of employees of the sheriff’s office and detention center (the Lyons suit adds the 911 district) for failure to properly evaluate an inmate before his release, negligently issuing a stand down order, failure to properly train and assign deputies.
The Lyons suit added the assertion that there was a failure to “respond to welfare check requests and/or other neighborhood complaints concerning the mental deterioration of Thibodeaux” and properly document the request; failure to properly handle and respond to a 911 call; failure to render aid to an injured victim and failure to engage in search and rescue.