Troopers’ Bragging of Assault on Black Motorist Raises Questions of Justice

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Louisiana prosecutors have recently dropped charges against state police troopers involved in a disturbing incident where a Black motorist was violently beaten and lifted by his hair braids. Additionally, text messages were uncovered where the troopers boasted about the assault, claiming it would haunt the victim for a significant period of time.

The 2020 arrest of Antonio Harris was one of several incidents involving the mistreatment of Black men that were recorded on body cameras. These incidents led to a wide-ranging investigation by the U.S. Justice Department into the use of force by the Louisiana State Police. About a year later, following the tragic arrest of Ronald Greene in northern Louisiana, a violent incident that led to charges being filed, this occurred.

According to Michael T. Sterling, Harris’ attorney, the dismissals were brought to his attention. Sterling believes that the system is biased against individuals like Antonio. The evidence clearly showed that these officers brutally assaulted Antonio Harris and then proceeded to falsify their accounts of the incident. The situation here is quite perplexing.

The arrest of Harris, which occurred after a high-speed chase that concluded near a cornfield in rural Franklin Parish, has been strongly criticized by state police. They have deemed the actions of the officers involved as “inexcusable,” stating that they used “excessive and unjustifiable force” by kneeing, slapping, and punching the suspect even after he had surrendered.

“They repeatedly claimed that I was resisting, but I want to make it clear that I never resisted,” Harris informed investigators. Upon their arrival, one of them swiftly delivered a forceful blow to my face. One of them was forcefully closing my eyes.

An internal investigation revealed that the troopers submitted reports that were deemed to be completely false. These reports alleged that Harris repeatedly attempted to escape, ignored commands, and engaged in physical altercations with the troopers before being subjected to what Trooper Jacob Brown referred to as “tactical strikes.”

The troopers later exchanged 14 text messages filled with laughter and light-hearted responses, as they made fun of Harris. Unfortunately, Harris experienced the unpleasant aftermath of the arrest, including spitting up blood and enduring days of sore ribs and stomach pain.

“He’s definitely going to be sore tomorrow,” Brown wrote in one of the texts. It’s truly heartwarming to see the impact of our education on that young man.

Despite initially promising to bring the troopers to trial, District Attorney Penny Douciere ultimately dropped the misdemeanor charges in November against Brown and Trooper Dakota DeMoss. This decision came shortly after a federal jury in Monroe acquitted Brown of a civil-rights charge related to the beating of another Black motorist, whom he struck 18 times with a flashlight. The dismissals also occurred approximately two weeks after prosecutors in a neighboring parish decided to drop charges against another trooper who was accused of withholding graphic body-camera footage of Greene’s arrest.

Douciere did not provide an explanation for her decision to drop the charges. However, she did mention that she intends to dismiss the prosecution of George “Kam” Harper, the third white trooper involved in Harris’ arrest.

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A Closer Look at the Legal Proceedings and Investigation

Attorneys representing the troopers did not respond to emails requesting comment. DeMoss and Harper were let go by the state police, while Brown chose to resign. In February 2021, they were initially arrested on felony charges of malfeasance in office. However, Douciere made the decision to charge them with misdemeanor battery instead.

The pursuit started when Brown stopped Harris for a minor traffic infraction and found out that his license was suspended and he had outstanding warrants.

Harris quickly evaded authorities and engaged in a high-speed pursuit spanning 29 miles (47 kilometers), with speeds reaching up to 150 miles per hour (241 kph). Eventually, law enforcement successfully halted the chase by utilizing a tire-puncturing spike strip. Despite Harris surrendering, DeMoss, the first trooper to arrive, used physical force by delivering a knee strike and slapping him in the face before turning off his body-worn camera, according to court records.

During the incident, Harper repeatedly struck Harris in the head using a fist that was reinforced by a flashlight. Additionally, Harper threatened to “punish” Harris while Brown pulled his hair, as determined by an internal investigation. DeMoss can later be seen on the footage helping Harris up by his braids.

Investigators have determined Brown failed to disclose the existence of body-worn camera footage to state prosecutors.

The attorney representing Harris expressed optimism that the Justice Department would pursue civil-rights charges, but unfortunately, this did not come to fruition following the presentation of evidence to a federal grand jury.

The Justice Department has yet to provide any updates on whether charges will be filed in Greene’s death, which occurred on a rural roadside near Monroe. However, federal authorities are actively investigating an alleged attempted cover-up of the incident.

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Photo by:  fhm via Getty Images

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