By Allan Turner
Lawyers for a West Point cadet who says bodyguards for soul singer Patti LaBelle beat him while he was waiting for a ride at a Houston airport released security video Thursday showing the student being pushed and punched by two men and a woman.
Richard King, 23, a U.S. Military Academy senior from Houston, filed a lawsuit this week against the 67-year-old vocalist, three of her entourage, a Bush Intercontinental Airport taxi dispatcher and the airport, seeking unspecified actual and punitive damages in connection with the March 11 incident.
King’s attorney, John Raley, said last Thursday that his client had been suspended from West Point as a result of the episode and placed in a “mentorship” program which will require active-duty status of at least a year.
Police smelled alcohol
West Point spokesman Francis DeMaro declined to discuss specifics of King’s case, but said cadets can be placed under mentorship for violations of the academy’s code of honor. Inappropriate use of alcohol, he said, may result in such action.
Houston police responding to the late-night incident outside the airport’s Terminal C said King smelled of alcohol.
Raley said the cadet had consumed a few alcoholic drinks on his flight to Houston but was not impaired.
Raley said his client, who had come to Houston for spring break, was talking to his brother on a cell phone when he wandered toward LaBelle’s limousine in the passenger pickup area.
“Apparently, defendant LaBelle believed King was standing too close to her (no doubt expensive) luggage, even though he was oblivious to her presence and the danger he was in,” the lawsuit asserts. “LaBelle lowered the window of her limousine and gave a command to her bodyguards. They sprang into action.”
The lawsuit contends King never struck members of LaBelle’s group.
In the video, King is seen wandering near the auto while talking on his cellphone. Then he is pushed and punched before falling against a concrete pillar. Apparently stunned, King attempts to rise three times, but falls. He finally stumbles away from the scene.
For some seconds before the blows, King is not visible on the screen. The video has no audio. The security tape also shows two Houston police officers posing for photographs with LaBelle after the confrontation, King’s blood on the ground a few feet away.King was taken to a hospital by ambulance. The lawsuit says he suffered a concussion.
“There can never be any justification for the savage battery of King…” the lawsuit states. “Defendant LaBelle is hot-tempered herself … She was a full participant in the cruel attack on King. She ordered it, and never tried to stop it.”
Calls to LaBelle’s management company were not returned Thursday.
Driver says he was struck
A police incident report confirms that an altercation occurred involving King and LaBelle’s limousine driver, Zuri Edwards, 37. Edwards told police that a verbally abusive King hit him after he was asked to move as staffers approached with luggage carts.
Police said Edwards suffered a bruise on his face but did not want to press charges against King, who told officers he could not remember what happened before or during the attack.
Raley said his client — who was a defensive player for the Army football team – may undergo medical testing to determine the extent of his injuries this summer. “With head injuries,” he said, “the full seriousness may not immediately be apparent.”
On Thursday, Raley said King had told him a doctor had advised him to give up football for at least a year.
King, a Klein Forest High School graduate, is the grandson of J.T. King, famed Texas Tech University football coach. The elder King was inducted to the University of Texas’ Men’s Athletics Hall of Honor in 1981.
Although Bush Intercontinental also was named as a defendant, City Attorney David Feldman on Thursday said the city likely would be immune to prosecution under state law.