- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

HARVEY, La. (AP) - A New Orleans area sheriff is standing by a deputy accused of using excessive force on a teenager arrested following a Feb. 13 Mardi Gras parade - an incident caught in part on a brief, widely seen cellphone video that shows the officer delivering strong blows to the teen’s face.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand spoke at a Wednesday news conference about the arrest of 17-year-old Brady Becker.

The video shows Deputy Nicholas Breaux straddling Becker and delivering four blows to Becker’s face. Normand said evidence indicates Becker started the altercation because he was upset about the marijuana arrest of a friend. He said a departmental investigation is continuing and that his office is cooperating with the FBI, which has confirmed it, too, is investigating.

“What we have thus far completely, totally validates our officer’s story,” said Normand, who accused Becker’s lawyer of manipulating the media. Normand said reports of Breaux’s background in mixed martial arts fighting have been inflammatory.

Becker’s lawyer David Belfield has claimed, in public appearances with his client showing a black eye from the altercation, that excessive force was used. Normand said Breaux did nothing wrong while subduing Becker amid a raucous crowd shouting obscene anti-police chants.

Questioned multiple times about whether the blows to the face were in accord with his office’s procedure, Normand said Breaux took steps to subdue Becker while making sure Becker had no chance to reach for the deputy’s gun.

“I’m not so sure I would have struck him with my fist for fear of breaking my hand,” Normand said. “But I’d have definitely kneed him in the groin. I’d have kneed him in the stomach. I’d have tried to knock his wind out of him. Because he does not have the legal right or authority to grab my officer.”

Asked whether Becker had started the altercation, Belfield said Wednesday night that the question is whether excessive force was used.

If a deputy believed that Becker committed a crime, he has the right to arrest him, Belfield said. “But you don’t have the right to use excessive force,” he said.

Becker admitted drinking during the night of the parade, the Sheriff’s Office said in an arrest report. Normand said Becker’s blood-alcohol level was .144 percent, well above the .08 percent considered proof of intoxication for an adult driver, and more than seven times the limit for a 17-year-old.

“His blood-alcohol content has zero to do with whether he was subjected to excessive force,” Belfield said.

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