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FBI probes juvenile center death, called homicide

The FBI is investigating Thursday's homicide of a juvenile inmate at the Bridge City Correctional Center for Youth as a potential criminal civil-rights case, an agency spokeswoman said Friday.

"We will present our findings to the U.S. Department of Justice," FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne said from her New Orleans office.

Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputies and State Police also are investigating the homicide as a state crime.

Emmanuel Narcisse, 17, of Harvey died from a blunt force injury of the head, M.A. Goldman, a forensic investigator for the Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office, said Friday.

The coroner concluded the death is a homicide, Goldman said.

David Utter, executive director of the nonprofit Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, said the incident occurred outside the prison infirmary during "pill call" when juvenile offenders line up to receive their medications.

"It's becoming fairly clear there was no provocation" by Narcisse, Utter said. "The guard was the aggressor."

Neither Thorne nor Trey Boudreaux, undersecretary of the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections, would release any details about the incident.

Boudreaux said a correctional officer has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

But Boudreaux declined to identify the officer or to indicate how long the officer has been employed with the agency.

Utter said the officer was newly hired and had just recently completed training.

"We know that the physical force that was applied to this kid was powerful enough to knock him off his feet," said Mary Howell, a civil-rights attorney who represents Narcisse's mother, Janet Goins of Harvey.

Howell said the prison video camera in the area did not capture the incident; however, some inmates saw what happened.

Howell said some prison employees also may have knowledge about the incident.

"We've been asking any employees to please come forward," she said.

Howell is representing Goins for potential civil-rights wrongful death litigation.

Howell said she does not represent Narcisse's father.

The attorney said prison officials did not notify Goins about her son's death until nine hours after it occurred.

Narcisse was taken from the juvenile prison to West Jefferson Medical Center in a nonresponsive state.

He was pronounced dead in the hospital's emergency room at 8:46 a.m. Thursday, said Goldman, the Coroner's Office spokesman.

Goins learned her son had been injured from a relative who worked at the hospital, Howell said.

Goins received a call of condolence from the prison at 5 p.m. Thursday, Howell said.

"That has been a very painful thing for her," she said of the notification delay.

"We have extended our sincere condolences to the young man's family and acknowledged that this tragedy has affected all of us," the Corrections Department said in a news release issued Friday.

Boudreaux, the corrections undersecretary, said the department's Critical Stress Incidence Debriefing Team has been at the prison providing counseling to both inmates and staff.

The juveniles returned to school today, Boudreaux said.

The death of Narcisse comes at a time when the Legislature is considering drastic changes to the state's juvenile justice system, such as removing administration of juvenile corrections from the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

The Senate's Judiciary B Committee is scheduled Tuesday to consider a bill to close the state's troubled juvenile prison at Tallulah.

"This poor kid's death should be wake-up call," Utter said. "We need to make something good out of this tragedy."

Utter has been advocating a juvenile justice system that relies more on community-based group homes and probation rather than prisons.

Narcisse's death "only happened because of the training and supervision that says it's OK to manhandle kids, to use force when a kid mouths off at you," Utter said.

Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children held a candlelight and prayer vigil in memory of Narcisse on Friday night on the Mississippi River levee across from the prison.



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