The mother of a 16-year-old boy says a video shows a Baton Rouge police officer striking the teen on his head Sunday at the city’s celebration of Earth Day as additional officers held him facedown on the ground.
Baton Rouge Police spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola did not say what led to the arrest of the boy or why he was being held down by a group of officers, saying only that the teen must have attacked an officer in the moments prior to the event.
The teen was booked into a juvenile jail on battery of a police officer and resisting an officer with violence or force, Coppola said.
Meanwhile, Baton Rouge police say at least three other boys were arrested in a shooting at a downtown casino after a fight at the Earth Day gathering, but it’s unclear if the two incidents are related.
Coppola said the arrests signal increasingly raucous behavior among youths at the annual environmental awareness event, which takes place mainly outdoors all day on a Sunday each April.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. started an internal investigation into the beating depicted in the video, said Coppola. But he said he didn’t know as of late Monday whether any officers, who were apparently not wearing body cameras, have been placed on administrative leave — a common practice for officers at the center of internal probes.
A video first published by The Rouge Collection opens by showing a person being held facedown on the grass by two officers, who appear to have pinned the male subject’s arms behind him. The prone person is struck in the head by an officer several times, and appears to react by drawing his right arm up around his head as other lawmen rush to hold down or surround him. An officer wrestles the male subject’s arm back down behind him. Another officer is shown approaching the prone person with what appears to be a Taser, Coppola said, before holstering the device.
“He wasn’t fighting at all,” Todd said.
Coppola said he could not elaborate on what precisely happened before the show of force, but said the teenager was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Detention Center on counts of battery on a police officer and resisting a police officer with violence or force.
Efforts to speak to the person who filmed the clip were unsuccessful Monday.
Coppola reiterated that the clip shows only part of the story and alluded to there being multiple unrelated violent acts at the Earth Day event. The number of incidents police have had to respond to has increased over the past few years at the annual gathering, he said.
“While we cannot speak yet to the context in which this incident occurred,” Coppola said later in the statement, “we can assure you that we are treating the situation with the utmost care and concern as we initiate an Internal Affairs Investigation.”
Coppola added that no one has come forward from the outside to request an internal affairs investigation of the case. He could not confirm whether the boy was armed at any point during the event, citing the ongoing probe.
Coppola said he could not immediately confirm the prosecutor’s information or whether it corresponded to the incident on the video.
The shooting incident, in which the three boys were booked, started when the three youths ran from a fight at the Earth Day celebration, said Coppola, who couldn’t confirm if the fight was the same one that ended in the apparent use of force by an officer.
No one was injured in the shooting.
One boy was arrested on a count of attempted armed robbery, another was accused of attempted armed robbery and resisting arrest, and the third faces counts of attempted armed robbery, resisting arrest, illegal carrying of a weapon and obstruction of justice, Coppola said.
Sharon Weston Broome, a former state senator who is running for mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish, called for the BRPD to increase the use of body cameras in a statement posted to her public Facebook account Monday.
“Police body cameras represent a new tool law enforcement can use at their disposal to better protect the public, ensure more police accountability and transparency as well as a protective measure for the police,” she said.
“I share our community’s anger and embarrassment, and will work with Baton Rouge Police to address these issues from all angles and at all levels,” he said.
Mayor-president Kip Holden declined Monday to comment on the video or police investigation, saying it is more appropriate that Dabadie, the police chief, is the official who speaks about the matter.
“Events like LA Earth Day are meant to help our community unite with a shared mission, not to provide opportunities for violence,” Dabadie said in the release. “As a department, it is our role to protect and serve our community, and as we investigate yesterday’s events, we intend to ensure that, moving forward, we respond to violent acts by attendees like what we witnessed yesterday responsibly and to the best of our ability.”
Todd said she was unable to provide more details on the incident as she was trying to get her son out of jail Monday.