HOUSTON - A West Point cadet is suing veteran R&B diva Patti LaBelle, saying she ordered her bodyguards to beat him up as he waited for a ride home outside a Houston airport terminal.
The lawsuit alleges the cadet, Richard King, was waiting for his brother and father to pick him up outside one of the terminals at Bush Intercontinental Airport, when three of LaBelle's bodyguards attacked him. King was in Houston, his hometown, while on spring break from West Point.
"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," according to King's lawsuit, which was filed in Houston civil court and also names the bodyguards, the airport and a taxi dispatcher as co-defendants. "LaBelle lowered the window of her limousine and gave a command to her bodyguards. They sprang into action."
One of King's lawyers, John Raley, said the alleged attacked resulted in a concussion and lingering dizziness and headaches for his client. The lawsuit is asking for unspecified damages.
LaBelle's publicist did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
LaBelle's singing career has spanned more than four decades and includes several hit records and two Grammy Awards.
A surveillance video from the airport provided by King's lawyer and reviewed by The Associated Press showed King, 23, talking on a cell phone when one of LaBelle's bodyguards appeared to push up against him. It appeared that King then pushed him back. Raley said King did not push back but was only trying to protect himself from a punch.
After that, the bodyguard and two other individuals then pushed and punched King, hitting him in the face and knocking him to the ground.
In the video, the bodyguards could be seen cowering over King and then moving away when King unsuccessfully tried several times to get up off the ground. Police eventually came over and helped King. The video then cuts to King, who has a bandage on his head and blood on his yellow sweater, being placed on an ambulance stretcher. The video ends with two Houston police officers taking photos with LaBelle.
LaBelle "was a full participant in the cruel attack on King," the lawsuit said. "She ordered it, and never tried to stop it."
One of the individuals involved in the incident, Zuri Edwards, told police King hit him after he asked the cadet to back away from the limousine that LaBelle was in, said Kese Smith, a Houston police spokesman.
Edwards, who said he was the limo driver, and a bodyguard both told police King appeared to be intoxicated, Smith said. The investigating officer also noted in his report that King appeared to be intoxicated and smelled of alcohol. The police report named King as the suspect in the incident.
Raley said King had a few drinks on the flight to Houston but denied he was intoxicated.
Edwards declined to press charges and the case is still open, Smith said. Raley said King is still considering pressing charges.
King, who played defensive back for Army, was told by his doctors he can never play football again because of his injuries, Raley said. King is the grandson of former Texas Tech University football coach J.T. King.
Houston police reported the incident to West Point, which suspended King for at least one year and ordered he go on active duty.
"Our hope is West Point will watch the video and reevaluate the situation and recognize that Richard King is innocent and should not be punished in any way," Raley said.