lspstock.adv_HS_003

Louisiana State Police vehicles parked at headquarters, Wednesday, November 14, 2018 in Baton Rouge, La.

Louisiana State Trooper Kaleb Reeves, son of the former agency head, was suspended for 4½ months without pay — the maximum suspension allowed under state civil service rules — after investigators concluded his reckless driving caused a crash in Monroe last October that left a child and teenager dead from their injuries.

The news comes during a time of turmoil for the agency, where leaders are scrambling to address a series of unresolved scandals at the Monroe-based Troop F, including several incidents where troopers are accused of brutally beating Black suspects. Four troopers have been arrested in recent months. 

State Police officials announced the discipline decision in a news release Thursday morning, calling the crash preventable and reprimanding Reeves for his poor driving record. Investigators found he was driving more than 20 mph over the speed limit in this case, among other violations. 

Late at night on Oct. 1, Reeves was responding to an earlier crash when he slammed into a Kia sedan traveling the same direction and in the same lane on U.S. 165. The two rear passengers — ages 11 and 18 — were hospitalized but later died. Reeves was not injured.

Officials said that in addition to the 720-hour suspension, Reeves will face future restrictions on overtime hours and vehicle use. He must successfully complete additional training in remedial driving and patrol operations.

"All of these measures are directed toward correcting conduct to ensure that Trooper Reeves can safely perform his job duties upon his return to work," officials said in a statement. "The tragic loss of life as a result of this incident will never be forgotten."

Officials released few details immediately after the crash, including whether Reeves would face discipline. But records released Thursday confirm the suspension and paint a more complete picture of what happened that night.

Officials said the crash Reeves was responding to did not involve injuries or road blockage and therefore was not an emergency, but he was nonetheless driving 77 mph, well above the 55 mph speed limit. Reeves applied the brakes less than one second before the crash, slowing his SUV to 57 mph upon impact, investigators found.

In an interview with investigators, Reeves said he realized at the last second that there was a vehicle in front of him traveling slowly, then slammed on the brakes and steered to the right hoping to avoid a collision. 

State Police leaders found that Reeves violated internal policies by driving too fast without his emergency lights on and failing to wear a seatbelt. He also violated a policy that requires troopers to avoid reckless driving. 

This was not his first time getting into trouble behind the wheel, his superiors wrote in a disciplinary addressed to Reeves. He was involved in another preventable crash in Winn Parish in September 2019.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

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

State Police leaders warned Reeves that any similar violations in the future would result in more serious discipline, including possible termination. 

The letter was signed by Col. Lamar Davis, who was named State Police superintendent last fall after Kevin Reeves retired from the position — less than a month after his son was involved in the fatal crash. The elder Reeves spent decades at Troop F in Monroe before being named to head the agency in 2017.

His retirement also came not long after the 2019 death of Ronald Greene came to light, prompting scrutiny of Troop F. The Greene family filed a lawsuit last year claiming troopers engaged in wildly excessive force during the encounter, including beating Greene and using stun guns, then lied about what caused him to stop breathing. 

Kaleb Reeves was not named in the lawsuit. 

Since then, several similar incidents have surfaced at Troop F, though none involving deadly force. Four troopers were arrested in February, accused of using excessive force in two separate traffic stops involving Black suspects. Two of the arrested troopers have resigned from the agency and the other two will be placed on unpaid leave pending the resolution of an internal investigation.

One of the troopers who resigned was Jacob Brown, the son of Bob Brown, who also came up in Troop F and later served as assistant superintendent and chief of staff under Kevin Reeves, before retiring in recent months.

About two months after Kevin Reeves was named superintendent, the Louisiana Legislature carved out an exception in state nepotism laws to allow his son, who had recently graduated from training academy, to remain on the force. Before that legislation was passed, state law prohibited an immediate relative of an agency head from working for the same agency — unless the family member had already been employed there for at least a year before the appointment.

The new legislation shrunk that grace period to four months but limited the exception to State Police, not other agencies. Kaleb Reeves had started training to become a trooper several months before his father was promoted, though he had applied to join the force about two years earlier.

There was no indication when he applied that Kevin Reeves would later become his boss, a change that occurred after Col. Mike Edmonson abruptly stepped down amid allegations he was misusing public funds and abusing his power.


Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.