‘Nightmares for a long time:’ Police joked of beating Black man

Filings claim Louisiana officers joked about beating Black man who surrendered after high-speed chase.

Louisiana State Police officers allegedly joked about beating a Black motorist [File: Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo]

Louisiana State Police troopers joked in a group text about beating a Black man after a high-speed chase last year, saying the “whoopin” would give the man “nightmares for a long time,” according to new court filings first reported by local blog Sound Off Louisiana.

“He gonna be sore tomorrow for sure,” Trooper Jacob Brown, who was charged in the case and resigned on Wednesday, texted three of his colleagues. “Warms my heart knowing we could educate that young man.”

The May arrest of 29-year-old Antonio Harris – who authorities say was beaten by troopers even after he “immediately surrendered” – bears a strong resemblance to the State Police pursuit a year earlier that ended in the still-unexplained death of another Black motorist, Ronald Greene.

Greene’s death was captured on body-worn camera footage the agency refuses to release and remains the subject of a federal civil rights investigation, as the United States continues to reckon with police brutality.

Excessive force

Brown, 30, who faces charges in two other excessive-force cases, had pulled Harris over for a minor traffic violation on Interstate 20 in Richland Parish when Harris re-entered his vehicle and fled, State Police said.

The ensuing chase spanned 47 kilometres (29 miles), reached speeds of 240 km/h (150 mph) and ended only after deputy sheriffs deployed a “tyre deflation device” that caused Harris to drive into a ditch, the court records show.

An internal investigation found the responding troopers, who are white, attacked Harris even though he had surrendered and “laid face down (prone) on the ground and extended his arms away from his body and his legs spread apart”.

“At no time did Harris resist arrest,” the State Police internal investigation concluded.

The troopers produced “wholly untrue” reports saying Harris was resisting and continuing to flee, the filings say, and they sought to conceal from investigators that there was bodycam video in which they boasted about the beating and mocked Harris.

DeMoss and Harper also are charged in Harris’s arrest and were placed on administrative leave after the internal investigation.

The filings show DeMoss originally received only counselling for his role in Harris’s beating, was admonished for turning his FM radio up “extremely loud” during the chase and switching stations “in order to find the right song”.

An Associated Press comment request sent to the lawyer for the other troopers was not immediately returned. Brown’s lawyer declined to comment.

The Associated Press’s efforts to reach Harris, who appears to be from Mississippi, were not immediately successful.

Harris’s arrest drew new attention after a months-long internal investigation into use-of-force incidents in the northern part of the state – a probe begun amid mounting scrutiny of the agency’s Troop F, which patrols the Monroe area and the surrounding parishes.

Mona Hardin, centre left at podium, mother of Ronald Greene, speaks at a news conference outside the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Greene’s death is now under federal investigation. Greene’s family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit in May alleging troopers ‘brutalised’ Greene [File: Dorthy Ray/AP Photo]

Brown and another trooper, Randall Dickerson, 34, are also charged in a July 2019 drug arrest of another Black man after a traffic stop on Interstate 20 in Ouachita Parish. A body-worn camera captured Dickerson striking the man five times “towards his head and administering a knee strike to his body,” according to court records.

Brown also was arrested in December on battery and malfeasance charges in another incident involving a man who says authorities followed him to his house, dragged him from his car and beat and kicked him, breaking his ribs.

Federal authorities separately are investigating officers from the same troop in the death of Greene. Troopers initially blamed 49-year-old’s death on a crash at the end of a high-speed chase. But photos of Greene’s car showed little damage and his family’s lawyer says bodycam footage shows troopers choking and beating the man, repeatedly jolting him with stun guns and dragging him face-down across the pavement.

Ongoing reckoning

The report comes amid continued legal decisions on cases involving the deaths of Black people in which police were involved.

The Minneapolis city council and lawyers representing George Floyd’s family announced on Friday a $27m settlement over Floyd’s death in police custody last May, which sparked a nationwide protest movement.

Lawyer Benjamin Crump said at a press conference the settlement and his legal team will help to usher in police reforms.

Crump also negotiated a $12m settlement for the family of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed during a botched, fatal police raid on her home last March.

Protesters gather at a memorial for George Floyd where he died outside Cup Foods on East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis [File: John Minchillo/AP Photo]

Taylor’s then-boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was permanently cleared of charges related to firing his weapon at police who raided Taylor’s home the night she died earlier this week.

Crump and Floyd’s family hope the four police officers charged over his death will see justice in courts, the lawyer said at the Frida news conference.

Jury selection has begun in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with second and third-degree murder in Floyd’s death.

No charges were filed against the officers involved in Taylor’s death.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies