Sep 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Louisiana state trooper charged in violent beating of Black motorist

Photo of police cars parked in front of the Louisiana State Police building

The Louisiana State Police headquarters in Baton Rouge. Photo: Sean Gardner via Getty Images

A former Louisiana State Police trooper was charged Thursday with a civil rights violation for beating a Black motorist 18 times with a flashlight, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: Former state trooper Jacob Brown's indictment is the first criminal case to come out of federal investigations into attacks in which state troopers and their bosses concealed incidents of misconduct, according to the AP.

Details: A grand jury Thursday charged Brown with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law related to excessive force. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the Department of Justice.

  • He was "perhaps the Louisiana State Police’s most prolifically violent trooper in recent years. Records show he tallied 23 uses of force dating to 2015 — 19 on Black people — and he faces state charges in Bowman’s case and two other violent arrests of Black motorists," AP writes.

Catch up quick: In May 2019, Aaron Larry Bowman was pulled over for a traffic violation —improper lane usage — when state trooper Brown arrived on the scene. Deputies forcibly removed Bowman from his vehicle and tackled him to the ground.

  • Brown struck Bowman 18 times with a flashlight in the span of 24 seconds, leaving Bowman with a broken jaw, broken ribs and a gash in his head.
  • Brown later claimed Bowman had hit a deputy and that the beating was intended to force Bowman into handcuffs. Bowman denied striking anyone and is not visibly violent with officers in footage of the incident.
  • The trooper did not report his use of force and mislabeled his bodycam footage in "an intentional attempt to hide the video," investigators reported in internal records obtained by AP.
  • State police did not probe the alleged assault until after Bowman filed a lawsuit— 536 days later.

What they're saying: "We're very grateful for what has happened today, but this by no means is going to satisfy Aaron Bowman or anybody else … to stop here," Bowman’s attorney Donecia Banks-Miley told Louisiana newspaper The Advocate.

  • Brown's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
  • "The actions of Brown and others charged by LSP in excessive force incidents undermines the public trust earned by the exemplary work of our dedicated men and women," Louisiana State Police Captain Nick Manale said in a statement. "These actions are inexcusable and have no place in professional public safety services."

The big picture: An AP investigation identified a dozen cases over the past decade in which troopers or their bosses turned a blind eye to evidence of beatings and resisted efforts to scrutinize misconduct.

  • In recent years, 67% of Louisiana State Police’s uses of force were against Black people, per AP.

Worth noting: Federal prosecutors are investigating a separate incident in which troopers punched, stunned and dragged Ronald Greene, another Black motorist, before he died in their custody on a roadside.

  • Bodycam footage of both attacks, which occurred less than three weeks apart, was not made public until AP obtained and published it this year.
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