BRPD incident screenshot

Baton Rouge police released this video screenshot of an officer placing a knee on a teenager. Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said the knee was placed on his back, which is an approved tactic at the department.

The mother of a teenager who Baton Rouge police arrested after a traffic stop last July has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the officers used excessive force.

Tenesha Cannon says an officer restrained her 16-year-old son — referred to by the initials "D.C." in the lawsuit — by placing his knee on her son's neck as he lay facedown on the pavement, even though he complied with their orders. BRPD officials have said the officer had his knee on the teen's back.

"A knee on a back is used as a control method," Sgt. Myron Daniels said at a news conference about the incident last year, noting that investigators don't believe the teen's breathing was restricted at all. "But the neck is off-limits."

The controversial stop caused a stir on social media last year. It came a month after cellphone footage showed Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd's neck for about eight minutes before Floyd died. That death ignited nationwide protests against racism and police brutality; Chauvin was recently convicted of murder in the death.

Cannon's lawsuit names the City of Baton Rouge, BRPD Chief Murphy Paul and eight police officers.

Sgt. L'Jean McKneely Jr., a BRPD spokesperson, declined to respond to specific allegations in the lawsuit due to pending litigation. 

"We are going to respect the process," he said. 

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D.C. was a passenger in a car that refused to stop when hailed by police for an alleged seat belt violation, resulting in a lengthy pursuit, the lawsuit says. BRPD officials said at the time the police chase lasted about 50 minutes as the driver disobeyed stop signs and ran red lights. 

When the car finally halted at North Acadian Thruway and Bogan Walk around 5:31 p.m., D.C. and the driver exited the car with hands held over their heads. The driver was handcuffed without incident.

D.C. remained kneeling, with his hands held high as officers approached him. Although he complied with all commands, he was pushed to the ground and "forcefully handcuffed" by three officers after one pointed a gun at him at close range, the lawsuit says. 

One officer's knee "was pressing on D.C.’s neck for close to 30 seconds, restricting his ability to breathe, before the arresting officers collectively jerked him up off the ground, yanking his arms backwards," the lawsuit says.

The maneuver left him in a neck brace, the lawsuit says. 

His complaint lists close to 30 lawsuits filed in the last decade against BRPD. The attorneys say that represents a pattern of "excessive use of force and improper deadly use of force," arguing D.C.'s arrest is just another example of misconduct.

The attorneys also argue that BRPD does not adequately train or supervise officers, does not employ "constitutional de-escalation tactics" and allows a "police code of silence," where officers do not report misconduct when they witness it, among other failures.

Email Jacqueline DeRobertis at