A New Orleans barber has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the State Police, claiming troopers racially profiled and assaulted him last year in a case of mistaken identity.
The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court, accuses troopers of fabricating evidence and creating "a false narrative in an attempt to justify and cover up their actions."
State Police booked the barber, Michael Baugh, on counts of battering a police officer and possession of marijuana. Those charges remaining pending in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.
But Baugh contends that troopers lacked probable cause to order him out of his pickup, and that his arrest stemmed from an "obvious and clear misidentification."
A State Police spokeswoman said Thursday that the agency has not received a copy of the lawsuit.
The arrest happened late on Sept. 18, 2015, as Baugh sat in his vehicle, which was parked outside his business, the Flaw-Luxe Hair Studio, at 110 S. Rampart St., just off Canal Street. Baugh said he had turned a light on in the pickup to count his earnings after a 14-hour work day.
The troopers, Eric Thaxton and Charles Robertson, had been searching for another dark-colored pickup about 11 p.m. after the New Orleans Police Department received a complaint about four men, one of whom had been spotted waving a firearm, according to the lawsuit.
The officers approached Baugh's pickup with a flashlight and a rifle drawn, ordered him out of the vehicle and began to "harshly interrogate" him about an earlier incident that happened on another street, the lawsuit claims.
Baugh tried to explain to the troopers that they had the wrong truck, the lawsuit says, "and that they had no probable cause to remove him from his vehicle and detain him."
"It's just not right," Baugh told WWL-TV last year. "They had the wrong person, and I told them that."
According to the lawsuit, Robertson grabbed Baugh's arm, prompting the barber to cover his face and back up toward the neutral ground on Rampart Street, and Thaxton fired his Taser at Baugh, striking him once in the buttocks and twice in the back.
The troopers then "pinned (Baugh) to the ground and verbally and physically assaulted him" in an "unjustified attack," the suit alleges.
The lawsuit refers to a cellphone video that captured at least part of the incident and alleges that State Police arrested an eyewitness "to discourage and/or silence them."
Baugh received cuts to his head and back, abrasions to his wrists and arms and a broken front tooth that required two surgeries, the lawsuit says. It alleges that lawmen mocked Baugh at the hospital as they were photographing his injuries.
The arrest has caused Baugh "to distrust law enforcement and the very individuals who are supposed to serve and protect him," the lawsuit says.
"As a result of this incident," it says, "Mr. Baugh feels unsafe and unprotected by law enforcement in his own community and in his workplace."
It's unclear whether the troopers involved in Baugh's arrest faced any discipline. State Police did not respond to questions about the results of their investigation.
The case was assigned to Judge Susie Morgan.