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Louisiana state police officers charged with hitting black man

WINNSBORO, La. – Prosecutors have indicted three Louisiana state police officers who are accused of hitting a black motorist, lifting him to his feet by his pigtails and boasting in text messages that the “whoopin” would give him “long nightmares”.

The single battery charges offense in the 2020 arrest of Antonio Harris comes amid mounting scrutiny by the state’s top law enforcement agency over allegations of excessive violence — particularly against black people — and an institutional instinct to cover it up.

Jacob Brown, Dakota DeMoss and George “Kam” Harper, who are white, were seen on body camera video piling on Harris, even kneeling him, after a high-speed chase that ended next to a cornfield in rural Franklin township, slapped and slapped despite surrendering face down with arms and legs spread.

The soldiers’ lawyers declined to comment on Thursday. A spokesman for the state police initially did not comment on the allegations.

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State police arrested the soldiers in February 2021 on felonies of misconduct, but local prosecutors chose not to bring that count last week when they filed a briefing in Franklin Parish. Misdemeanor simple battery in Louisiana carries up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Prosecutors come as a federal grand jury in Lafayette heard testimony in the same case. Federal prosecutors have been investigating whether the soldiers used excessive force for months, but it remains unclear whether the US Department of Justice intends to pursue a civil rights case.

Similar uncertainty reigns over the federal investigation into the 2019 fatal arrest of Ronald Greene, another black motorist who was beaten by state police. A federal grand jury in the case also heard testimony that soldiers drugged, punched and pulled Greene before he died on a rural roadside in Union Parish outside of Monroe. The Associated Press reported this week that the Justice Department is increasingly skeptical about successfully taking down the soldiers.

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Meanwhile, state lawmakers are reviewing allegations of a cover-up of Greene’s death and voted this week to despise the former state police chief for defying a subpoena and refusing to release the handwritten journals he kept when he left the agency has led.

In Harris’ caning, an internal investigation found the soldiers filed “completely untrue” reports alleging the man continued to attempt to escape, refused to obey orders and fought with soldiers before they began killing him with so-called “tactical punches”.

“They kept saying, ‘Stop resisting,’ but I never resisted,” Harris told investigators. “As soon as they got to me, one of them knelt in my face. One of them squeezed my eyes shut.”

The officers also later exchanged 14 text messages peppered with “lol” and “haha” replies, bragging about the beating and mocking Harris, who was spitting up blood and suffering from sore ribs and stomach pains for days after the arrest.

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“He’ll be sore for sure tomorrow,” Brown wrote in one of the lyrics. “It warms my heart to know that we could raise this young man.”

Brown, Harper and DeMoss, who were part of a notoriously violent detachment of soldiers patrolling the northeast state, were arrested in the case last year. DeMoss and Harper were fired, and Brown, who pleaded not guilty in a separate federal trial in October, charging him with hitting another black motorist 18 times with a flashlight, resigned.

DeMoss was also under investigation for his role in Greene’s death, which authorities initially attributed to a car crash at the end of a car chase, before the AP last year released the soldiers’ long-held body camera video showing a violent arrest.

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The arrests of Greene and Harris were among at least 12 cases in the past decade in which an AP investigation found that cops or their bosses ignored or withheld evidence of beatings, deflected blame and stymied efforts to root out wrongdoing. Dozens of current and former soldiers told the AP news agency the beatings were condoned by a culture of impunity, nepotism and, in some cases, outright racism.

Harris’ case began after Brown pulled him over for a minor traffic violation on Interstate 20. The officer conducted a criminal background check and found that Harris had a suspended driver’s license and outstanding warrants.

Harris sped away from traffic control in a Hyundai Sonata and led the soldiers on a 47-kilometer chase that reached speeds of 150 miles (241 km/h) before finally being stopped with help from a puncture.

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Though Harris had already surrendered, DeMoss, the first soldier to arrive, “kneed” and slapped him in the face with an open palm before turning off his body-worn camera, court records show.

Harper, meanwhile, repeatedly hit Harris on the head with a fist “enhanced” by a flashlight and threatened to “punish” Harris while Brown pulled the man’s hair, an internal investigation has found. DeMoss is later seen in the footage lifting Harris to his feet by his pigtails.

Investigators determined that Brown never informed prosecutors that body-worn camera video of the arrest existed.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/05/12/louisiana-state-troopers-charged-in-beating-of-black-man/ Louisiana state police officers charged with hitting black man

Justin Scacco

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