Advocate staff writer
January 27, 2013
State Police have begun an internal inquiry into a veteran officer accused of assaulting and intimidating an immigration attorney during a parking dispute last month at a remote hunting lease in Washington Parish, authorities confirmed.
Michael W. Gahagan, of Metairie, said he pressed criminal charges and filed complaints against Capt. Kevin Devall, a Baton Rouge-based commander of criminal investigations for several parishes, and his brother, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Page Devall.
Gahagan claims the brothers bullied and threatened him after he parked too close to their deer stand on Dec. 21.
“It was probably the scariest moment of my life,” Gahagan said, adding that he considered shooting the officers as they accosted him. “They both grabbed hold of the front of my shirt with their left hands and both of them cocked back their right hands, so I thought I was going to get the hell beat out of me.”
Kevin Devall, a 23-year veteran of State Police, will remain on active duty as officials review the complaint and determine whether he violated any department policies, said Capt. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman.
State Police emailed Gahagan a letter Friday afternoon promising a thorough investigation into his allegations.
“Our internal affairs section and the department as a whole takes any allegation against troopers seriously,” Cain said.
Authorities in Washington Parish, citing a lack of evidence, said they found no probable cause to arrest the officers, despite Gahagan’s claim in an affidavit that he was held against his will.
“It was just his word against their word is what it pretty much amounted to,” said Chief Deputy Olander Smith of the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Rick Wood, spokesman for the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said investigators reviewed Gahagan’s claim “with a fine-tooth comb” and found no grounds to pursue criminal charges. He said authorities found it unusual that Gahagan waited two days to file his complaint instead of calling 911 as soon as he could.
“We see this as some men on a hunting lease that got into it over an innocent mistake by a new guy who didn’t know where to park,” Wood said. “No harm, no foul.”
Authorities said the run-in happened at the Parish Line Hunting Club near Bogalusa. Gahagan, who had taken the day off to go deer hunting, said he heard an all-terrain vehicle pull up to his truck and then drive away a few minutes later.
He said he left his vehicle on the side of the road, 50 to 100 yards from the Devalls’ deer stand.
Gahagan said he climbed down from his deer stand as it was getting dark and headed toward the gate to exit the property. He said the Devalls created a roadblock with their pickup and trailer on Buddy Talley Road and were “lying in wait” for him.
Gahagan said he asked the Devalls to move their vehicle, and they threatened “to beat the hell out of me” because of where he had parked. Gahagan said in his affidavit the Devalls “were within 2-3 feet of me and would not let me get away from them” as he walked backward down the road.
The officers referred repeatedly to their law enforcement roles and threatened to throw him in jail, Gahagan said.
He said Kevin Devall claimed he “makes the laws in Louisiana,” while Page Devall allegedly said, “I kick in doors for a living.”
After trying to retreat for more than half an hour, Gahagan said, he reached for his handgun — holstered in his back waistband — and warned the officers he was armed. Gahagan said he decided against drawing his weapon because he feared the consequences of gunning down two lawmen in a rural parish.
“If these two men were not police officers,” he said in the affidavit, “I would have defended myself and shot and killed them in order to prevent a beating and escape the attack and illegal detention.”
Gahagan said he was ordered to disarm and get into the ATV. He said he locked his handgun in his truck and received a “full-body pat-down” from Page Devall.
Gahagan said Kevin Devall drove him through the woods to show him where he could park without encroachment.
“At all times during this attack and while they were holding me against my will, I never felt that I was free to leave,” Gahagan said in his affidavit.
Gahagan said he was finally released about 8 p.m. He decided to press charges two days later and drove to Franklinton.
That delay raised eyebrows, said Wood, the district attorney spokesman.
“If this is such a serious situation, certainly you would have gone ahead and reported it to law enforcement,” Wood said. “I’ve been working with the DA 10 years, and when somebody feels threatened or afraid, that call happens as soon as they can get to a phone.”
Capt. Tommie Sorrell, the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office detective who investigated the case, said Gahagan received no physical injuries.
“What he stated in the affidavit, I didn’t substantiate in my investigation,” Sorrell said.
Cain, the State Police spokesman, declined to release records relating to the internal affairs investigation.
“Internal affairs investigators do thorough, impartial investigations and report facts to the department so decisions can be made,” he said. “They do that in every case, and I’m confident they’re doing that in this one.”
Gahagan said he is scheduled to meet next month with State Police Capt. William Davis and a DEA agent from south Florida to discuss his complaints, suggesting the DEA also is conducting an internal review.
Mia Ro, a DEA spokeswoman in Miami, declined to confirm the agent’s appointment with Gahagan. Terry Davis, of the DEA’s New Orleans office, declined comment as well.
Kevin Devall had no comment on Gahagan’s claims, Cain said. Page Devall, a former Baton Rouge police detectivwe, could not be reached for comment.
The Devalls are sons of Hammond Police Chief Roddy Devall. Wood said no preferential treatment was given because the men happen to wear a badge, adding the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office has a long history of prosecuting rogue law enforcement officials.
Gahagan’s complaint is not the first Kevin Devall has faced at State Police. In 1994, he was cleared of a claim he held a gun to the head of a man he suspected of burglarizing his home.
Calvin “Light Bread” Garner accused Kevin Devall of slamming his head into a car and poking him in the eyes, but a Livingston Parish grand jury found no grounds to indict him.