Ex-sergeant sues Walker over noose incident, alleging defamation

WALKER, La (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) - A former Walker Police sergeant is suing the city and the police chief for defamation after he resigned earlier this year after supervisors said he hung a noose in the department. Mark Fruge is suing for defamation and wrongful termination.

The lawsuit said Fruge first intended to tape a cookie to a pole in the squad room as a joking reference to taking another man's cookie, but the tape dispenser was empty.

"Sgt. Fruge then tied a cinch knot commonly used for fishing called a 'uni-knot' around the cookie and tied it to the pole," the lawsuit said.

It was that image that was later construed as a noose, according to the lawsuit.

"He put the cookie up with that and he actually made a joke about not taking another man's cookies when he hung it up, Fruge's lawyer Robert Aguiluz said. "It wasn't until afterwards when somebody saw it and misconstrued what it was."

Aguiluz said Fruge is upset people perceived the act as racially charged.

"Racism is a horrible thing to be accused of. I would not be representing somebody that hung a noose," Aguiluz said.

The lawsuit said the department investigated the incident when it was first brought to a supervisor's attention. 

"The assistant chief and Sgt. Fruge's supervisor investigated it and determined there was no racial motivation to it whatsoever," Aguiluz said.

The lawsuit claims the chief knew the outcome of that investigation when he made comments to WBRZ implying there was racial motivation. The lawsuit also pointed out the picture the department gave out about the incident was altered.

Aguiluz said the picture displayed in local media was untied and did not have the cookie in it.

He said not showing the cookie in the fishing knot misrepresented the situation.

Fruge was placed on a three-day suspension after the incident, which the lawsuit said was meant to be the final and only punishment for the action.

However, the lawsuit said he was facing pressure to resign if he wanted to ever pursue a career in law enforcement again.

"Anybody in Sgt. Fruge's position would have resigned at that point because of the impact it would have on his ability to get any employment, much less in law enforcement," Aguiluz  said.

Aguiluz said Fruge suffered emotional and financial distress as a result of allegations.

"Subsequent to the report, Sgt. Fruge received death threats, and on multiple occasions observed vehicles in front of his home that appeared to be surveilling his home and family," the lawsuit said.

Aguiluz said Fruge would like to clear the air and get back to serving his community.

"Walker is his community.  But he wants his name cleared also to be able to do that," Aguiluz said.

A representative from the city said the city has not been served the lawsuit yet, so there is no comment at this time.

Fruge is also suing WBRZ-TV for defamation.

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