A Louisiana grand jury has accused eight police officers of using excessive force in arresting two men after a chase in January. A district attorney said Tuesday that a grand jury charged each officer on Monday with one count of malfeasance in office.
Prosecutors have dropped all charges against Chico Bell and Damon Robinson, the men who were arrested, because of unnecessary force, Attorney James Stewart Sr. said in a news release.
Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond said his office began investigating the incident the day of the arrest.
“All parties are innocent until proven guilty and in order to preserve the officers rights to due process I will not make any further comments at this time,” he said in an emailed statement.
Mayor Adrian Perkins said, “The nation is going through a reckoning because, in the past, officers were too infrequently held accountable for bad policing," news outlets reported. He wrote that his administration expects to have body cameras for police by the end of the summer.
The eight officers have bonded out of jail, Stewart said. All are on leave, said Sgt. Angie Willhite, a police spokeswoman.
Stewart said during an online news conference that cases involving the separate deaths of two Black men while in Shreveport Police custody are not yet ready to present to a grand jury, and he could not say when that would occur.
“We are playing catch-up on two months” without grand juries because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, he said.
A separate news release described the allegations against officers Aaron Jaudon, 29, D’Andre Jackson, 24, Mark Ordoyne, 25, William Isenhour, 23, Christopher McConnell, 35, Brandon Walker, 27, Treveion Brooks, 24, and David Francis, 45.
Brooks, who is African American, was investigated after shooting a man who ran when Brooks tried to arrest him for violating the city's saggy pants ordinance in February 2019. The coroner found that Anthony Childs shot himself in the chest, and the officer's bullets all caused superficial wounds. The city later revoked the saggy pants ordinance.
The district attorney's news release said officers intending to ticket the two men for seat belt violations tried to stop Bell’s truck on Jan. 24. He drove off, prompting a chase that continued for several miles (kilometers), during which Bell threw some items out the window, according to authorities.
Dash camera video showed that once the truck stopped, both men “raised their hands, and then stuck both hands up out of the windows of the truck, in an apparent attempt to surrender without resistance.” However, the statement said, Shreveport officers pulled Bell out through the driver's side window, “striking, kicking and tasing him.” His injuries included a broken eye socket, the statement said.
One Shreveport officer punched Robinson several times through the open passenger’s window while others held his hands, the news release said. It said the officers then took him to the ground, where one officer apparently hit his face with a flashlight even though Robinson’s hands were behind his back. “Robinson’s nose was broken in several places,” the statement said.
He was arrested on a charge of resisting an officer.
Police found “very small amounts of ecstasy, cocaine and a stolen gun that was found the next day along the route of the chase,” and Bell was arrested on charges of flight from an officer, illegal possession of drugs, obstruction of justice, cyberstalking and “a fugitive matter.”
A Caddo Parish sheriff’s deputy had joined the chase, and Sheriff Steve Prator asked Stewart to investigate because of “concerns based on the Caddo deputy’s report, dash and body cam evidence and the excessive force being used during the stop,” the statement said.
Stewart asked the public on June 2 for any video, witness accounts or other information about the deaths of Tommie McGlothen on April 5 and Wavey Austin on April 19, saying police files appeared incomplete.
He said Tuesday that he has received a great deal of additional information since, including 1,800 pages of medical records about McGlothen and multiple updates from police in each case.
Shreveport City Councilwoman LeVette Fuller, who was already calling for an external investigation of the department, said Monday's indictment shows why such an investigation is needed, The Times reported.
“I am deeply concerned that such a large group of officers could be acting independent of orders or, alternately, under advisement from supervisors," her statement said. “If these officers are culpable, how can leadership not also be culpable?”
McConnaughey reported from New Orleans.