BR.spainshooting.012821 HS 465.JPG

Baton Rouge Police investigate the scene of a homicide on Spain Street, Wednesday, January 27, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La.

When Baton Rouge police staked out a suspected drug deal and came away with large amounts of marijuana and three guns, Kelvin Patterson told detectives the drugs and weapons belonged to him, court records show. He was quickly booked into jail.

Then came an unexpected turn of events: BRPD narcotics officer Jason Acree was accused of stealing some of the drugs confiscated from the sting and giving them to his friend. The department arrested Acree late last month on marijuana distribution and malfeasance in office.

Given the potential mishandling of evidence, the case against Patterson now faces an uncertain future.

Many more criminal cases could also be affected amid an ongoing corruption probe focused on the BRPD narcotics division. Since Acree was arrested, four of his supervisors — including the narcotics commander — were transferred into uniform patrol, effectively cutting the division in half.

The investigation into Acree started with tips from another narcotics officer facing misconduct accusations of his own. Jeremiah Ardoin alleged more widespread corruption after he was arrested in December and issued a misdemeanor summons for buying stolen property.

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said hundreds of cases could potentially be affected now that the credibility of these detectives has been challenged. The officers could end up on what prosecutors call a "Brady list" of cops considered untruthful or otherwise untrustworthy — information that prosecutors would have to disclose to defense attorneys in the future.

The scope of ramifications will largely depend on when the alleged corruption started, Moore said. He noted that most narcotics detectives have a high volume of arrests because of the nature of their job.

In reviewing the Patterson case, Moore said prosecutors are trying to pinpoint the exact connection to Acree and his alleged misconduct, which will determine whether the charges against Patterson are dropped or changed.

"There are still too many questions at this time," Moore said. "It's hard to answer whether this case will be complicated by Acree. … We have a lot more investigating to do."

The arrest warrant for Acree specifically accuses him of stealing marijuana seized from the sting involving Patterson. But the warrant also includes somewhat murkier allegations concerning THC vape pens.

The sting was launched after BRPD narcotics detectives received a tip from an anonymous source that Patterson would be sending someone to pick up drugs from an address off Florida Street the afternoon of Sept. 29, according to his arrest warrant. Detectives staked out the area and saw Patterson place a brown parcel box into a vehicle, which they followed back to his apartment, the warrant says.

Although his three roommates were also home when the apartment was searched and one drove the vehicle transporting the parcel box, Patterson "claimed sole responsibility and knowledge of all THC scheduled items," Sgt. Seth Sinclair wrote in the warrant. Court records show no additional arrests were made in the case.

The warrant mentions other detectives who assisted with the investigation, but court records do not indicate whether Acree was one of them.

Detectives recovered almost four pounds of marijuana in addition to THC wax and vape pens, according to the warrant.

Patterson, 25, was released on $17,500 bond not long after his arrest. He was formally charged in January with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and illegal carrying of weapons with drugs.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

His arraignment was scheduled for Wednesday morning, but Patterson failed to appear in court and was issued a bench warrant. Attempts to reach him this week were unsuccessful.

A public defender has been appointed to represent Patterson, who has no prior criminal history in Baton Rouge, according to online court records.

Lindsay Blouin, deputy district defender for East Baton Rouge, said she hopes prosecutors seriously consider whether this case should go forward.

"Whenever someone is arrested, nearly all the evidence against them comes from the word of law enforcement," she said. When an officer loses credibility, "justice requires that every single case they touched be reviewed through that lens to protect every impacted person's constitutional rights."

Meanwhile Acree is also free on $35,000 bond after his Feb. 26 arrest. He remains on administrative leave with BRPD pending the outcome of the criminal case and internal disciplinary proceedings.

According to his arrest warrant, Acree entered the BRPD narcotics processing room and opened a vacuum-sealed bag of marijuana that once belonged to Patterson, removed a small amount and resealed the bag with tape. When asked by his colleague about the stolen marijuana, Acree said he was giving it to a friend who "also likes to use vape pens that contain THC" according to the warrant.

Investigators noted in the report that THC vape pens were among the evidence seized from Patterson after detectives opened the parcel box and searched his Mid City apartment.

When detectives later searched the home of Acree's friend last month, they found some marijuana and several THC vape pens. Despite containing details that suggest those vape pens came from the Patterson sting, the warrant stops short of making a direct connection.

The friend told detectives that Acree had given him between eight and 10 THC vape pens in total over several months, with the last delivery arriving about five or six months earlier, according to the warrant. That timeline roughly matches up with Patterson's Sept. 29 arrest.

The friend told detectives he was unsure where the drugs came from, but was aware that Acree was a BRPD narcotics officer who had brought him marijuana and vape pens on several occasions in 2019 and 2020, the warrant says.

Both police investigators and prosecutors will seek to determine whether this alleged corruption indicates a longstanding problem in the division or one that took shape more recently.

A memo prepared by Ardoin — the narcotics officer arrested for stolen property and placed on administrative leave in December — claims supervisors knew about the misconduct and even sometimes participated. The memo, which Ardoin wrote soon after his arrest, was provided to the police chief and other department leaders in late December, a source confirmed to The Advocate.

It includes some detailed accusations against Acree that were later corroborated in his arrest warrant. Among them: Acree told other detectives that he would deliver marijuana to his friend, who enjoys smoking it. According to the memo, Acree said he also brought the friend THC vape pens "because they are his favorite."

In addition to accusing Acree of stealing evidence, Ardoin alleged other illegal activity within the narcotics division. He claimed officers routinely stopped and searched Black people without probable cause, planted drugs on suspects and coerced prostitutes into setting up drug dealers.

BRPD officials have declined to comment on the contents of the memo and refused to speculate about what this could mean for the future of the narcotics division itself.

Department leaders have not indicated whether they expect more officers to be arrested or disciplined.


Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.