Baker police Sgt. Adam Wayne Procell

Baker police Sgt. Adam Wayne Procell

A former Baker police officer who lost his job in 2017 for allegedly mishandling a shots-fired call involving East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux's son was ordered reinstated Monday by a Baton Rouge state judge.

District Judge Mike Caldwell reversed a decision from the Baker Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, which had voted 3-2 in August 2018 to affirm the termination of Sgt. Adam Procell. The judge said Baker took too long to investigate Procell's case, a procedural violation of a bill of rights for officers. 

Procell, who now works with the Denham Springs Police Department, said after Monday's court hearing he was pleased with Caldwell’s ruling but added, “It should have never gotten this far." Procell said the allegations against him were false.

On the morning of April 27, 2017, Procell responded to an alarm at Aspire Academy Charter School but then heard gunshots and began canvassing a wooded area across the street, behind the Walmart store on Plank Road. During the investigation, Procell came upon Ben Gautreaux, the sheriff's son, and discovered that Gautreaux had shot at a snake in his backyard.

He didn't arrest Gautreaux, who was later issued a misdemeanor summons after Procell gave the case to other officers.

Procell was then arrested himself, accused of essentially giving Gautreaux a pass even though he had admitted to firing a gun in his backyard, a violation of a Baker ordinance that forbids firearm discharges within city limits. Procell's arrest warrant stated he repeatedly told Gautreaux he wouldn't do anything about the shooting and that the city ordinance forbidding such discharges is "BS."

Procell later challenged a claim that body camera footage showed he acted improperly. He and another former Baker officer told WAFB-TV that Procell was actually referring to Ben Gautreaux's cluttered backyard — not his ordinance violation — when he told the man "I'm not going to say nothing."

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III ultimately declined to press charges against Procell after determining the officer had acted within the law and did everything you "would want someone to do in that situation."

Procell sued the Baker Police Department last year, alleging his arrest was made "recklessly, maliciously and without foundation in law."

Ken Fabre, an attorney for the city of Baker, said Monday an appeal of Caldwell's ruling is possible. Fabre said he respects the judge’s decision but disagrees with it.

Procell’s attorney, Chris Alexander, argued to Caldwell that when a police chief begins an investigation of an officer for possible misconduct, he has 60 days to complete it. If the probe is not wrapped up within that time frame, any discipline against the officer is illegal. The Procell investigation was not completed within 60 days, so his firing was illegal, Alexander told the judge. Caldwell agreed.

Alexander said afterward that Procell's options include going back to the Baker Police Department or possibly applying with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office. He said Procell is “happy to have this monkey off his back.”

“There was zero evidence that Sgt. Procell did anything wrong, and this should have never been allowed to get to this point,” he said.

Alexander said the firing of Procell was reprehensible, as was the civil service board’s narrow decision.

“They ratified the destruction of a man’s career and reputation,” he said. “The only authority who has shown any honor in this whole process is the District Court.”

Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.