Disputed police report released to press

Iberia Parish sheriff candidate Murphy Meyers has denied threatening a man in an incident reported to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office in May. The Daily Iberian looked into the report in May but multiple Freedom of Information Act requests to the sheriff’s office were denied, stating the case was still open. Lafayette lawyer Lee Durio filed a FOIA request at the behest of a client he declines to name and received the reports and witness statements, forwarding them to various media outlets on Thursday. ‘It’s really disappointing how this election has turned,’ Meyers said Thursday. His opponent, Tommy Romero, said Thursday he does not know Durio and had nothing to do with the report. 

If Iberia Parish voters were wondering when the “October surprise” would drop in the contest for Iberia Parish sheriff, the answer is here.

It dropped in November.

With less than 10 days to go before the runoff election for Iberia Parish sheriff between Tommy Romero and Murphy Meyers, a Lafayette attorney has forwarded copies of a police report accusing Meyers of using racial epithets and threatening a black man with a pistol in May.

According to attorney Lee Durio, who sent the report to The Daily Iberian, Teche News, the Lafayette Daily Advertiser and The Acadiana Advocate, his client has not asked for any legal action based on the report.

“I was asked to submit a public records request,” Durio said. “I was asked to receive the documents and provide them to the media.”

When asked who his client was, Durio demurred.

“No, that’s confidential,” he said.

The police report and attached witness statements Durio forwarded to media outlets contain conflicting information as to what happened on the morning of May 15. What they do agree on is:

• Corey Copper, the complainant, was at the Southland Inn around 9:30 a.m. on that day with a friend, Jeremy Pradia, visiting Meyer’s stepdaughter, Sharon Burke.

• Meyers arrived to drop off money for Burke, whose car had been towed.

• Copper and Pradia were downstairs at the motel as Meyers walked back to his truck.

• Meyers and Copper exchanged words, eventually flipping each other off as Meyers left.

What is in dispute between the various statements is the substance of the argument between Meyers and Copper. According to Copper, he had called Pradia to get a ride home from his job at the Port of Iberia that morning. After picking him up, Pradia said he had to check on a friend — Burke — at Southland Inn.

The two men were visiting with Burke when Meyers arrived. Copper said he saw Meyers give Burke an envelope, then turn to leave.

They left Burke’s room, heading downstairs. As he was leaving, Copper said Meyers threatened him, using racially charged language, and pulled a pistol from his truck and pointed it at Copper before leaving the parking lot.

One witness, Patricia Touchet, said that she heard the pair arguing from her room across the courtyard and saw a gun, although she could not describe it. She also said she heard Meyers using profanity, but not Copper.

Neither Burke nor Pradia said they saw a gun. Burke said she thought Copper instigated the argument, saying at one point she heard Copper yelling “I’ll kill you!” at Meyers.

In notes of his interview with one of the responding deputies, Pradia refused to comment about the origin of the argument, stating only that Copper was “an activist or Black Panther type guy.”

Further muddying the waters were statements from another resident, Angela Curtis, who said she had seen Copper at the motel at 2 a.m. with two other men.

In the report, the deputy said IPSO “will not be pursuing any charges due to several inconsistencies with reporting person and witnesses.”

In interviews in May, The Daily Iberian also learned that Copper had spoken to then-candidate Roberta Boudreaux prior to calling in a report to the IPSO. Although the incident supposedly occurred around 9:30 a.m., Copper did not make his report until noon.

Audio of Copper’s 911 call was also distributed with the incident report. During the call, Copper tells the 911 operator that he feared for his life if Meyers returned, even though the incident occurred hours earlier.

When The Daily Iberian first investigated the incident in May, both Copper and Meyers admitted that they were agitated during the exchange, but neither admitted to making any threats against the other.

As part of that investigative effort, The Daily Iberian had submitted a public records request to the IPSO on May 21 for a copy of the incident report. That request was denied because, according to IPSO Legal Counsel Steve Elledge, the incident was still under investigation. According to the report, it was closed the same day it was investigated.

An email to Elledge Thursday asking again for a copy of the report was not replied to by deadline Thursday evening.

When asked if he knew anything about the incident or Durio’s employment to deliver the report to the media, Romero said he was only vaguely aware of the fracas.

“I’ve heard that an incident happened a long time ago,” Romero said. “I’m running a clean campaign. I’m not into the dirty tricks. I do not know Mr. Durio and did not have anything to do with the report.”

For his part, Meyers said he was unhappy with the turn of events.

“It’s really disappointing how this election has turned,” he said. “They want to resort to this to discredit my reputation.”

This is the second time in the last six weeks that a story has been planted with the media to discredit Meyers. Two weeks prior to the primary election on Oct. 12, a story appeared in a blog questioning Meyers’ residency.

Updated Friday, Nov. 8 — Candidate Tommy Romero released the following statement after reading the report:

"I am deeply disturbed and troubled by the 911 call and the incident. As sheriff, I will do as I have always done: I will treat others with respect. I will continue to to share my experience, temperament and plan to improve the lives of our neighbors in Iberia Parish."

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