A Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police officer is under investigation after cellphone video surfaced on social media Sunday showing a Black 13-year-old boy being pinned to the ground with a brutal chokehold to his neck.
The Baton Rouge Police Department — already accused of several racially motivated encounters, including one that turned deadly — has not revealed the identity of the officer who remains on the beat, according to reports.
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Footage of the teen’s violent takedown is about 23 seconds long and shows another Baton Rouge officer arrive to help put the boy in handcuffs after the officer released his arm from his neck. The arrest appears to have taken place on a neighborhood street.
“You’re choking him!” a witness can be heard screaming at the officer.
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The investigation is looking at whether the officer followed proper procedure during the arrest, said Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul, adding that a determination on discipline will be made soon.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome has issued a statement saying she was aware of the “concerning encounter” and vowed to conduct a “prompt, transparent review,” The Advocate reported. Broome and others also called for the release of footage from police body cameras, which would require approval by a judge because the incident involves a child, WBRZ reported.
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Officers were dispatched to the scene Sunday after receiving a call about a fight involving a group of teenagers, some of whom were wielding baseball bats.
After arriving, police quelled the fray without incident and went on their way, reports said. About 30 minutes later, however, the fight ramped up again and this time officers arrested the 13-year-old boy and another 13-year-old girl, according to WAFB.
Both were charged with resisting arrest, but the boy was also charged with battery of an officer and disturbing the police, according to reports. He was jailed for a few hours at a juvenile detention center and then released to his family, The Advocate reported.
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“If that officer did not have a badge or a uniform on, and was an adult on the ground with a child in that manner, he’d be arrested,” said Ron Haley, a civil rights attorney hired to represent the boy. “Nowhere should an unarmed 13-year-old, who is not a danger to himself or others, be treated like a grown-up.”
In a statement, Haley alluded to previous incidents of alleged racial profiling and police brutality involving the Baton Rouge police.
“I appreciate the swift response from Mayor Broome and the promises made by Chief Paul. However, too many times in our community we see obvious police misconduct go unchecked and unpunished,” he said, according to The Advocate.
LSU football player incident
In November, three Baton Rouge police officers were placed on paid administrative leave after LSU football player Koy Moore alleged he was racial profiled and “violated numerous times” during a nighttime traffic stop.
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Moore said the officers drew their guns on him and falsely accused him of being armed and having drugs, then confiscated his cellphone to prevent him from recording video of the episode.
“I was violated numerous times even as going as far as to unzip my pants in search of a weapon that I repeatedly told them I did not have,” Moore wrote. “I could’ve lost my life and I know for a fact nothing would’ve happened to the guys who did it,” he wrote on Twitter.
In that case, too, the officers involved were not identified by the department.
Baton Rouge officers were also involved in the death of a Black man who was shot and killed during a struggle with two police officers on July 5, 2016.
Alton Sterling was shot to death in a struggle with police outside a Baton Rouge convenience store on July 5, 2016. The 37-year-old had been selling homemade CDs outside the business when he was confronted by officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II.
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A struggle ensued, and both officers wrestled Sterling to the ground. Moments later, Salamoni opened fire and Sterling was killed, according to the AP.
Reports said Lake did not discharge his service weapon.
Bystanders who witnessed the shooting recorded cellphone video that quickly spread on social media, leading to protests in which nearly 200 were arrested.
Sterling’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit the following year that named the city along with the police department, former police chief and the two officers involved.
The legal action claims Baton Rouge police engaged in a pattern of racism and excessive force, and that poor training and inadequate police procedures in particular contributed to Sterling’s death.
The Baton Rouge City Council rejected a $5 million settlement offer by the family in October. Because of the decision, a civil rights lawsuit will likely go to trial in March.
Shooting at Trader Joe’s
Multiple other race-related scandals involving the department include an incident in August when a 24-year-old white man was initially let go after admitting he shot and killed a Black panhandler outside a local Trader Joe’s, according to reports. Another racial controversy erupted in February 2019, when a photo surfaced showing Baton Rouge detectives wearing blackface in 1993.