Shreveport Fire and Two Medics Sued In Wrongful Conviction Case

The Shreveport Fire Department and two paramedics are being sued by a man who spent three years on death row after being wrongly convicted of murdering his infant son.

Rodricus Crawford was convicted in 2013 of murdering his son, Roderius Lott, on February 16, 2012. The conviction was based in part on the testimony of Shreveport Fire Department medics Sharon Sullivan and Daniel Mars who claimed there was evidence of foul play at the scene of Roderius’ death.

The Supreme Court of Louisiana overturned the conviction on November 6, 2016 based in large part on testimony from nine doctors from around the country who concluded Roderius died from pneumonia. According to the complaint: “Roderius had been suffering from pneumonia in all five lobes of his lungs, and the bacteria had entered his blood stream, causing septic shock and death.”

The suit was filed November 16, 2017 in US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana naming the Shreveport Fire Department; medics Sullivan and Mars; the Caddo Parish Coroner’s Office; Coroner Todd G. Thoma MD; Dr. James Traylor, MD; Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office, District Attorney James Stewart; prosecutor Dale Cox, and several others. As explained in the complaint:

  • Rodricus Crawford and his minor child Khasiah Crawford file this Complaint based on Defendants’ violations of Mr. Crawford’s rights to a fair trial, the denial of liberty, and to be free from punishment without the due process of law under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
  • Crawford was convicted and sentenced to death based upon false evidence as a result of the failure of Defendants to conduct an unbiased autopsy based on professional standards of practice, and to properly train and supervise prosecutors in Caddo Parish.
  • Because of the lack of training and supervision and adherence to professional standards, the prosecution was illegally based upon both race and religion, and a complete indifference to the evidence.
  • In addition, Mr. Crawford raises state law negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims; but for the reckless and willful conduct of Defendants, Mr. Crawford would not have been prosecuted let alone convicted of capital murder.
  • Defendants knowingly participated in the investigation, arrest and capital prosecution driven by Caddo Parish, Louisiana’s well-known history of racism and the arbitrary application of the death penalty. But for Defendants’ actions, no prosecution and conviction of Mr. Crawford would have occurred.
  • On the morning of February 16, 2012, Mr. Crawford woke to find Roderius unresponsive.
  • Fostravz Thomas and Larry Crawford called 911, and the operator instructed them to give the baby CPR.
  • Rather than quickly sending paramedics to provide emergency medical care to the unresponsive child, the 911 dispatchers sent out police along with Defendant FIRE DEPARTMENT’s ambulance, suspecting foul play based not on any rational basis, but on the African-American neighborhood and number of people in the house.
  • The ambulance took ten to fifteen minutes to arrive. Several frantic 911 calls were made by the Crawfords, complaining that the ambulance was taking too long.
  • During the process of securing an ambulance to the house, the 911 dispatcher made a call to an unknown male, likely law enforcement, and asked who lived at 6809 Broadway. She stated: “They’re acting a fool over there. . . . They ask for everything, but [the] baby’s dead.” The unknown male responded: “Probably slept on [the] damn baby. There’ll be 100 folks in the house.”
  • When the ambulance finally arrived, it passed by the house at 6809 Broadway.
  • Crawford, who had been waiting outside, ran after the ambulance with his son in his arms.
  • When they stopped, he handed his son to Defendant SULLIVAN, who took him to the back of the ambulance.
  • Defendant SULLIVAN examined the body. She negligently mistook a normal fluid draining from Roderius’ nose to be indicative of foul play. In addition, she falsely claimed to see bruising on the child’s buttocks, which was not visible to the naked eye. Finally, she falsely claimed to observe petechiae in the eyes, which was not found at the autopsy.
  • Defendant MARS was another paramedic on the scene. While Defendant SULLIVAN examined the baby in the ambulance, Defendant MARS spoke to Mr. Crawford. Defendant MARS falsely claimed that Mr. Crawford told Defendant MARS that Roderius fell off the bed.
  • Defendant MARS immediately considered the home a “crime scene” and claimed that the “situation was getting kind of violent,” so he asked the ambulance driver to take them to the hospital. They ran the lights and siren just until they got around the corner, and then turned them off.
  • Defendant MARS watched the examination of Roderius in the emergency room. Although the bruising on the baby’s buttocks was not visible to the naked eye, Defendant MARS falsely claimed that he observed “sickening” bruising and that it was “very upsetting.”

The complaint lists 8 counts:

  • 1983 Violation Based on Denial of Right to Fair Trial
  • 1983 Violation Based on Denial of Liberty Without Due Process of Law
  • 1983 Violation Based on the Denial of Equal Protection Under the Law
  • 1983 Racially Discriminatory Use of Peremptory Challenges
  • Monell Violation of § 1983 Based on Establishment of Policies, Patterns or Practices pursuant to which Mr. Crawford was Investigated, Charged, Detained, and Prosecuted Based on his Race
  • State Claim of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • State Claim of Tortious Interference with the Parent-Child Relationship
  • State Claim of Direct Action Against an Insurer, Pursuant to LA R.S. § 22:1269

Here is a copy of the complaint: Crawford v Caddo Parish Coroners Office et al

 KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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