HOUSTON -- Veteran R&B diva Patti LaBelle says in a countersuit filed against a West Point cadet who claims she ordered her bodyguards to beat him up outside a Houston airport terminal that the altercation began after the cadet hurled racial insults at her.
The cadet, Richard King, said he was waiting to be picked up by family outside one of the terminals at Bush Intercontinental Airport on March 11 when three of LaBelle’s bodyguards attacked him without provocation.
King, who was in hometown Houston while on spring break from West Point, filed his lawsuit earlier this month in Houston state civil court, naming LaBelle, the three bodyguards, one of whom is the singer’s son, and two others as defendants.
King’s lawyers say the alleged attacked resulted in a concussion and lingering dizziness and headaches for the cadet. A surveillance video from the airport that was previously released by King’s attorneys shows the 23-year-old cadet being pushed and punched by two men and a woman, all alleged to be LaBelle’s bodyguards.
LaBelle filed a countersuit last week, accusing the cadet of attacking her bodyguards after he directed profane and racial slurs toward the singer.
In the countersuit, LaBelle’s lawyers accuse King of being intoxicated, staggering around outside the terminal, screaming obscenities and trying to enter the singer’s limousine. King was politely asked to walk away from the vehicle, according to the countersuit. King’s attorneys have said the cadet had a few drinks on the flight to Houston but denied he was intoxicated.
"King directed profane and racial slurs towards LaBelle. When LaBelle’s son (Zuri Edwards) heard the profanity and racial epithets, he informed King that the woman in the limousine was his mother," the suit said. "Without warning or provocation, King violently and deliberately punched Edwards in the face."
The surveillance video, which has no audio, shows King 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. King’s attorneys have said King did not push back but was protecting himself from a punch.
The bodyguards told Houston police King attacked them.
King’s attorney, John Raley, said the countersuit is "completely without merit," adding that several eyewitnesses saw and heard the incident.
"Ms. LaBelle and company are continuing to attack an innocent man by telling the same false story they told the police. Thank goodness we have the surveillance videotape, which speaks volumes, and neutral eyewitnesses who will testify that Richard was brutally assaulted without provocation," Raley said.
LaBelle, who filed her countersuit in Houston federal court, is seeking to have the case moved out of state court.
The initial police investigation named King as the suspect in the case. But since the lawsuit was filed, the Houston police department reopened its investigation and it is also looking into the actions of two officers who were seen on the surveillance video taking photos with LaBelle after the alleged beating.
King’s attorneys say the incident was reported to West Point, which suspended the cadet for at least one year and ordered him to go on active duty.
King’s lawsuit and LaBelle’s countersuit are asking for unspecified damages.
LaBelle’s singing career has spanned more than four decades and includes several hit records and two Grammy Awards.