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Deputy who arrested Louisiana teacher was sued for excessive force in 2012

by Tammy Leitner, Annie Rose Ramos and Daniella Silva /
Image: Reginald Hilts
Reginald Hilts, then an officer with the Scott, Louisiana, Police Department, attends to a person's head injuries from a 2011 arrest.The Goode Law Firm, A.P.L.C

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ABBEVILLE, La. — The city deputy who handcuffed and arrested a Louisiana teacher during a school board meeting caught on video this week was sued in 2012 for alleged excessive force against a 62-year-old man, according to court records.

Reginald Hilts was accused, along with another officer, of shoving retired police officer Bruce Falcon, 62, up against a building and slamming his head on a concrete slab during a city ordinance dispute about overgrown grass on a lot in September 2011, according to the lawsuit. The suit was filed in 2012 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division.

Hilts, an Abbeville City deputy, was an officer with the Scott Police Department at the time of the alleged 2011 incident.

Falcon told NBC News on Thursday that Hilts “was very aggressive.”

"Officer Hilts then grabbed me and shoved me into the building,” he said.

Falcon was “seriously injured” and taken to the hospital in handcuffs, according to the suit.

The city eventually settled the lawsuit for $215,000 and court records show the suit was dismissed in May of 2016.

Image: Reginald Hilts
Reginald Hilts, then an officer with the Scott, Louisiana, Police Department, attends to a person's head injuries from a 2011 arrest.The Goode Law Firm, A.P.L.C

Hilts was fired from the Scott Police Department for reasons unrelated to the lawsuit, Scott Police Chief Chad Leger told NBC News. He was employed with the department from April to November of 2011. Criminal charges were not filed against Hilts or the other officer involved in the alleged incident, Leger said.

Hilts handcuffed and arrested teacher Deyshia Hargrave during a Vermilion Parish School Board meeting on Monday in an incident caught on a dramatic 12-minute video uploaded to YouTube.

The deputy is seen in the video telling Hargrave to leave after a tense exchange about a raise for the school district’s superintendent, Jerome Puyau.

After Hargrave leaves, she is heard yelling on the video and then shown on the floor in the hallway. She is then handcuffed behind the back by the marshal. The marshal asks the teacher to “stop resisting” and escorts her from the building.

Related: Louisiana teacher handcuffed during school board meeting wants apology

Hargrave was booked into the Abbeville City Jail on Monday evening on charges of resisting an officer and remaining on premises after being forbidden there, arrest records show. She was released on bond.

On Wednesday, Hargrave told NBC News she was still shaken.

"I was seriously panicked. I've never been handcuffed in my life,” she said.

Hargrave said she did not know what caused the incident to escalate so quickly.

“I'm still not sure what he was so angry about, that's still my confusion,” she said.

Image: Teacher Rally
Teachers and community members demonstrate in Abbesville, Louisiana, to express outrage over the arrest of a teacher during a school board meeting captured on video. Many say the violence shown in the video does not reflect what their community is really like.Annie Rose Ramos / NBC News

“I feel like I was being more passionate at previous meetings than I was at this one,” she added, insisting she never put a hand on the officer.

On Thursday afternoon, hundreds gathered in support of Hargrave at a rally in Abbeville.

Both the superintendent and the school board president have expressed support for the deputy, although they have said the events leading up to her arrest aren’t entirely clear.

Abbeville City Attorney Ike Funderburk told NBC News that there would be an investigation into Hilts’ actions.

Funderburk said that Hilts was to his knowledge still employed. There have been no past disciplinary actions listed against Hilts in his personnel file with the Marshal’s office.

"It's my understanding that the marshal will be bringing in an independent law enforcement agency to conduct a full and complete investigation,” Funderburk said.

The Louisiana Association of Educators said in a statement Tuesday that one of its attorney's was working with Hargrave on the next steps to take.

Tammy Leitner and Annie Rose Ramos reported from Louisiana. Daniella Silva reported from New York City.

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