AMITE — Independence Mayor Michael Ragusa, who was booked on public intimidation and other counts in an incident involving an Independence police officer, said Friday the allegations are false.
Ragusa gave a different view of what happened on Aug. 6 when he had words with the female officer during a traffic stop involving his son.
The mayor denied he battered or tried to intimidate the officer.
Independence Police Chief Frank Edwards III said Friday afternoon that Ragusa tried to get him to fire Officer Jeannie Cruz after the incident in which Ragusa allegedly threatened Cruz and slammed a car door on her arm.
A second officer, who was on the scene, has confirmed the allegations made by Cruz, Edwards said.
The incident began when the two officers followed a truck, which they said they had been speeding, as it pulled into the mayor’s construction business, police said.
The mayor’s son was the driver of the truck, according to the police report.
While one officer was talking to the driver, the mayor approached the police vehicle yelling and “forcefully slammed the partially opened door shut with both of his hands, causing the door to strike the officer’s upper left arm,” the police report states.
The report by Cruz says Ragusa held the door shut, cursed her and told her she was on private property.
She says in the incident report that she forced the door open, “almost knocking Ragusa to the ground,” and that he continued to curse her and order her off his property.
At that point, the mayor’s son pushed the mayor back from the officer and Ragusa yelled that he was going to get the officer fired, according to the report.
Ragusa, who was booked and released from the Tangipahoa Parish jail on his own recognizance Thursday afternoon, said Friday that he is innocent.
He said he approached the police car and leaned over the door of the vehicle to talk to the officer and ask her why she had driven onto his private property.
“She started pointing her finger at me, and I told her to stop,” Ragusa said.
“I’m 74 years old and have had a heart attack,” Ragusa said, adding that the allegation he committed battery on an officer was silly.
Ragusa said he did not shove on her door, but that he was almost knocked down when she opened it.
“I just grabbed the door to keep from falling down,” he said.
He said he didn’t resist arrest or try to intimidate the officer.
Maybe there are some bad feelings about the fact that he is trying to cut the Police Department’s budget, suggested Ragusa, who is in his second term as mayor.
“That’s absolutely ridiculous,” Chief Edwards said Friday afternoon.
Edwards said Ragusa “did follow up on his threat” against the officer with a call to Edwards. “The strange thing is there was no reason for this,” Edwards said.
No citation was issued to the mayor’s son, Hunt Ragusa, Edwards said. A second officer, who had gotten out of the police patrol car, had told the younger Ragusa only to slow down while driving through the town.
Hunt Ragusa stepped in and shoved his father back from the confrontation with Cruz, Edwards said.
The Police Department obtained warrants for the mayor’s arrest, and Ragusa surrendered to police Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
District Attorney Scott Perrilloux of the 21st Judicial District said his office had not yet received the case or made any decisions about it.
Public intimidation is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. The other two counts with which Ragusa was booked are misdemeanors, according to the District Attorney’s Office.