JPSO: Man who died during arrest had significant trauma to his neck, death ruled a homicide

METAIRIE - A man who died during an arrest last Thursday had significant trauma to his neck, and the coroner has labeled his death a homicide.

Twenty-two-year-old Keeven Robinson died after running from Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies who were conducting a narcotics investigation on Thursday, May 10.

Robinson ran from the undercover officers, who chased him down after a short pursuit, and a fight ensued, according to Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto.

Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich said the full findings from the autopsy will not be available for some time, but preliminary findings have shed light on the cause of Robinson’s in-custody death.

The initial autopsy findings “reveal significant traumatic injuries to the neck,” Cvitanovich said.

“These findings are consistent with compressional asphyxiation, and we are confident that, at the end of our investigation, that is going to be our cause of death,” he said. “Regarding manner of death: at this point, manner of death is homicide.”

Cvitanovich noted that the term “homicide” in the context of an autopsy means that another person was the cause of the victim’s death.

At this point, “homicide” does not carry the same meaning and culpability as the legal definition of the word.

At a press conference from the scene, Lopinto said he was aware that Robinson had a long history of asthma, but noted that an autopsy would have to be conducted in order to determine exactly what happened.

The four detectives who were involved in Robinson’s arrest and death have been reassigned and placed on administrative leave, Lopinto said.

Lopinto said of the detectives definitely used force during the arrest.

“They were in a fight,” he said. “They were in a narcotics investigation, narcotics was found, but the reality of it is they were in a fight with this gentlemen affecting arrest. There’s no doubt about that...Our police officers have to use force and they’re justified in using force on many cases, but it depends on their use of force compared to what was being done on the scene and what the findings and the science says.”

A gun was found in Robinson's vehicle, but he was unarmed at the time of his death.

The JPSO Homicide Division and the four detectives were called in on May 12 to cooperate in a criminal investigation, Lopinto said.

“That’s what we do as part of any type of homicide investigation,” he said. “The officers were read their rights. They cooperated. They gave statements.”

The Louisiana State Police and the FBI Civil Rights Task Force, have been brought in to help with the investigation.

Body cameras were not in use during the arrest because the officers were undercover during the investigations.

It’s is too soon in the investigation to determine if a choke hold was used, Lopinto said.

“I’m not coming to the conclusion that this was a choke hold,” he said. “They’re not forbidden from doing that, but they’re not trained, obviously, to do that on a normal basis.”