Hancock County

Brothers say they tried to fend off ‘homosexuals’ before being abused by Bay police

A Bay St. Louis Police Department cruiser is parked in front of the department's temporary home at the Fire Department.
A Bay St. Louis Police Department cruiser is parked in front of the department's temporary home at the Fire Department. amccoy@sunherald.com

Two brothers who got into a fight after refusing “homosexual advances” in Bay St. Louis have settled a federal lawsuit they filed against seven police officers, the Police Department and the city.

Thomas Joseph Koenenn III and Cody James Koenenn filed the lawsuit that describes a night in September 2016 that started at a Bay St. Louis bar, continued at the local hospital, where one officer choked Cody Koenenn, and ended with both brothers thrown in jail.

The Koenenns accused the officers of excessive use of force, and the city and Police Department of engaging in a pattern of excessive use of force.

The Koenenns sought a total of $3.6 million in actual and punitive damages. The terms of the settlement in U.S. District Court were not available Monday.

The Koenenns say the trouble started when three strangers approached Cody Koenenn in front of a bar and made “homosexual advances.” He rebuffed the advances, which the lawsuit says he was subjected to because he was wearing an Aeropostale brand shirt.

The three strangers then attacked the brothers, the lawsuit says. A bartender called police but by the time they arrived, the fight was over and the strangers had left, the lawsuit says.

Thomas Koenenn said he was knocked unconscious and his face was bleeding, while his brother had a fractured nose and bleeding face. They said three officers responded to the call and accused the brothers of public drunkeness.

The officers took the brothers to Hancock County Medical Center after the jail refused to take them because of their injuries.

Thomas Koenenn said he made a remark about “crooked cops” in the department to Officer John Nelson, who later made sure his body camera was off and choked Koenenn as he lay handcuffed in a hospital bed.

The lawsuit says officers Fred Eagan and Sara Reynolds ignored Koenenn’s cries for help, even though the officers were less than 6 feet away.

Reynolds later said, according to the lawsuit:

“I stayed leaned against the cart trying to make out what was being said but never did I move nor did I go in the room to see what was going on due to my personal perception of the two individuals being homophobic, and thinking they got what they deserved from a gay guy kicking both their a - - es.”

The lawsuit says the city failed to follow a recommendation, after an internal affairs investigation, that Nelson be fired.

Of the seven officers named in the lawsuit, only three remain with the Police Department: Dylan Murphy, Fred Eagan and Wes Mayley, who was sued as acting chief at the time.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99