Tentative settlement reached in Lafayette stun gun suit

The Sheriff’s Office has reached a tentative settlement of a federal lawsuit alleging excessive force in the death of an unarmed 28-year-old man who died after being shocked twice with a Taser stun gun in 2010, according to court filings this month.

The terms of the settlement have yet to be disclosed, and the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office declined comment on Friday.

Javon Rakestrau died from an asthma attack after receiving two stun gun shocks totalling 16 seconds, according to court records and a forensic pathologist’s report on the man’s death.

Deputy Chris Guidry had approached Rakestrau on Marigny Circle to question him about a suspected drug buy and used the stun gun after Rakestrau became uncooperative, according to a video of the incident the Sheriff’s Office released in 2010.

Rakestrau’s mother filed suit in federal court against Guidry and Sheriff Mike Neustrom alleging that, regardless of her son’s actions, the use of two stun gun shocks was excessive, especially considering that he appeared to be subdued after the first 7-second shock before the deputy followed up with another shock that lasted nine seconds.

The Sheriff’s Office has argued that Guidry was justified in using the stun gun twice because Rakestrau was uncooperative even after the first shock.

The settlement comes after U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna threw out some of the legal claims against Guidry in April, ruling that the initial seven-second use of the stun gun could not be considered excessive but leaving open the question of whether the deputy crossed a line with the second shock.

The normal shock cycle for a Taser is five seconds, and Hanna wrote that “the nine-second cycle is troubling to this court.” But the judge also wrote in his ruling that is was unclear from the video of the incident whether Rakestrau was subdued after the first shock.

Guidry said he shocked Rakestrau a second time because he saw the man roll on his side and worried that he might be going for a weapon. Two eyewitnesses disputed that, saying Rakestrau did not move after the first shock, according to Hanna’s ruling.

Rakestrau had no weapon, but Hanna commented in his ruling that Guidry had no way of knowing that at the time.

Deputies found a small amount of marijuana on Rakestrau, according to Sheriff’s Office reports at the time of the incident.

Hanna has given attorneys in the case until August to file a formal agreement dismissing the case. The litigation could be revived if the settlement is not formalized.