Federal judge dismisses civil claims against City of Marksville, APSO in Armando Frank case

Armando Frank died in law enforcement custody during execution of arrest warrant on Oct. 20, 2017
Armando Frank died in October 2017, after a struggle with police in a Walmart parking lot,...
Armando Frank died in October 2017, after a struggle with police in a Walmart parking lot, where officers were attempting to arrest Frank based off an active felony warrant.(APSO)
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 3:36 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2022 at 3:48 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - An Alexandria-based federal judge with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted a motion for summary judgment filed by the City of Marksville and one of its officers, as well as one filed by former Avoyelles Parish Sheriff Doug Anderson and two of his deputies, in a civil lawsuit brought by the family of a Marksville man who died during an Oct. 20, 2017, struggle with law enforcement.

The lawsuit, which was filed by the brothers of Armando Frank, 42, of Marksville, in July 2018, was an attempt to recover damages for alleged excessive use of force. Frank’s death was found to be a homicide, according to pathologist Dr. Christopher Tape, with manual strangulation as the primary cause. No criminal charges were ever brought up.

The case began on Oct. 20, 2017, during the execution of a felony arrest warrant for “simple criminal trespassing” and “attempted unauthorized entry into an inhabited dwelling” while Frank was on his tractor in the Walmart parking lot on Highway 1.

The encounter began with Frank when he was spotted on the tractor by Deputy Brandon Spillman. Spillman was later joined by Deputy Alexander Daniel, as well as Marksville Police Officer Kenneth Parnell, who all tried to get Frank to come off his tractor so they could serve the warrant.

According to court documents, the three did not know what the warrant was for, only that one existed. Frank denied the existence of a warrant. Law enforcement tried to coax Frank off the tractor, but he refused to come down. Body camera video and cellphone video from a witness recorded the short, but quickly escalating, exchange that followed.

**Warning: The following video contains foul language.

Armando Frank case body cam footage

What began with Parnell trying to pull Frank off the tractor and threatening him with being tased, soon became a struggle between all three law enforcement officers and Frank.

Spillman, who was standing behind Frank on the tractor, wrote in a narrative that Frank, who was 6-foot tall and more than 270 lbs., became aggressive and raised his hand toward Spillman’s face. Parnell deployed his TASER, but Frank continued to resist. Spillman wrote that Frank became “even more aggressive by striking personnel.” When Frank attempted to push Spillman off the tractor, he was tased again.

Soon after, the TASER was deployed again, but the shock hit Spillman by mistake. Frank continued to resist. Eventually, he was removed from the tractor, where the struggle continued. The video picks up Frank coughing as he was pressed against the tractor. Dr. Tape wrote in his report that law enforcement pressed against Frank for another 78 seconds while Frank said “let me up” three times in “an increasingly deep and strained voice,” according to Dr. Tape.

Law enforcement noticed Frank unresponsive after being handcuffed and place in a patrol unit. Dr. Tape noted in his report that the body camera video ended more than three minutes later, with officers confirming an ambulance was on the way, but no resuscitation efforts were administered.

On Monday, June 13, 2022, a ruling from Judge Dee Drell came down, clearing the defendants involved of alleged excessive force and denial of medical care via their qualified immunity as law enforcement officers.

Judge Drell cites a federal case, Saucier v. Katz, where qualified immunity “protects officers from the sometimes hazy border between excessive and acceptable force.”

In this case, Judge Drell argued the officers had probable cause to arrest Frank based on the fact that it was a felony arrest warrant, despite not knowing the nature of the offense. The question is then whether the use of force is excessive or reasonable. The plaintiffs argued Frank was passively resisting arrest, but Judge Drell disagrees, writing that Frank “verbally and/or physically resisted,” and became “increasingly obstinate.”

On the denial of medical care claim, Judge Drell wrote that there is “no evidence of deliberate indifference” to Frank, as he was in the care of other officers when in the patrol car and an ambulance had been called.

Judge Drell granted the two motions for summary judgment and dismissed all claims against the defendants with prejudice.

The Frank family was represented by Joseph J. Long and Carmen Tircuit Hebert, both out of Baton Rouge. The City of Marksville and Kenneth Parnell were represented by Derrick Whittington out of Marksville. Former Sheriff Doug Anderson, Daniel Alexandria and Brandon Spillman were represented by Brad Calvit and Eli Meaux of Alexandria.

Full Armando Frank Judgement:

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