A Baton Rouge police officer who shot at a man he had pulled over for a traffic violation Aug. 7 needs to appear in court and explain his actions, according to a lawyer seeking a bail reduction hearing for the driver.
At a news conference Thursday, attorney Ronald Haley Jr. said he is hopeful that a judge will reduce the $90,000 bail for Raheem Howard, 21, who is being held in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. Police say Howard fired a weapon at Officer Yuseff Hamadeh before Hamadeh returned fire along North 16th St. Investigators have not found a weapon, and Howard has said he wasn’t armed.
“We have questions. The community has questions. Hopefully at the hearing we’ll get answers,” Haley said.
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Police have said Hamadeh stopped a vehicle but the driver ran from the car rather than comply with orders. Hamadeh gave chase, and according to police, during the pursuit, the driver fired one shot at Hamadeh, who then returned fire. No one was injured in the incident.
Three days later, while being arrested, Howard told media that body camera footage from the incident would prove his innocence. Howard did not deny he was at the incident or ran from the officer, but he said he did not have a gun and couldn’t have fired a weapon. Howard was booked on attempted murder of a police officer — which is classified as attempted first-degree murder — and illegal use of a weapon.
The day after the Baton Rouge Police Department announced it would not yet release the body and dash camera video from an Aug. 7 officer-invol…
“Running and fleeing is not a death sentence,” Haley said. “Fleeing from a police officer is a misdemeanor in certain situations; it doesn’t equate to being killed or having a 50-year sentence put over your head for attempted murder of a police officer.”
Haley said he believes that, based on the evidence police have against Howard, the man deserves a lower bail so he does not have to sit in jail during the investigation.
In addition to not finding a gun, Baton Rouge police say they don’t have video of the confrontation because Hamadeh’s body-worn camera and dashboard camera were turned off. Neighbors who live near where the shooting happened continue to say they heard only one shot that evening.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul has asked for patience from the community as officers investigate. Haley said he is fine with that, to a degree.
“BRPD asked for patience; we can understand that,” Haley said. “However, that patience should not be at (Howard’s) detriment.”
Haley said he hopes Howard will be able to post bail if a judge lowers the amount required, and then can await the outcome of the investigation with his family, not behind bars. Howard’s mother stood with Haley at the news conference but did not speak and declined to give her first name.
The Advocate requested relevant body and dash camera footage after the incident, but days after Paul announced a new policy where he has the discretion to release such video quickly, the department declined the request. A police spokesman previously had said the chief was reviewing the footage for possible release.
After The Advocate published the story about how the request was denied, Paul said Tuesday that the video actually does not exist. He said Hamadeh’s body camera and front dash camera were off during the incident. Some audio was caught on the rear-facing camera, but no video, and a bystander had recorded the initial traffic stop.
Paul has declined to share that footage with the public.
In his first opportunity to implement a new video release policy aimed at improving transparency, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul decided…
“We should not be here right now,” Haley said. “The point of having this technology is so we don’t have situations like this.”
State Rep. Ted James, a Baton Rouge Democrat, joined Haley in voicing concerns over how police handled this confrontation. He said it is unfair the community paid to outfit officers with body cameras, yet are not employing them in a fair way.
“We’re asking that the Baton Rouge Police Department live up to the things that have been asked of us. We can’t trust you if you continue to not serve and protect but bully, harass and shoot,” James said.
Baton Rouge police captured the man who fired a gun at an officer earlier last week and arrested him on attempted first-degree murder, police …
Although James made a point to acknowledge the good cops, with whom he included Paul, he said some officers should not be on the streets.
In June 2017, Hamadeh was involved in a different traffic stop-turned-shooting, this one fatal. The officer fatally shot Jordan Frazier after police say Frazier pointed a gun at officers. There is also no video of that incident, as Hamadeh did not yet have a body camera and his vehicle did not have a dash camera.
“This officer has a history of shooting black men; that’s a fact. This officer purposely did not turn on his body camera; that’s a fact. This officer purposely did not turn on the dash camera; that’s a fact,” James said. “That doesn’t sit will with me.”
Howard has never been arrested for possessing or using a firearm, Haley said. However, the 21-year-old does have a history of fleeing police during attempted traffic stops. Since 2015, he has been arrested three times for fleeing law enforcement, twice in a vehicle and the third time first in a vehicle and then on foot, court records show.
One of the cases was dismissed. In the others, Howard pleaded guilty to flight from an officer and was sentenced to probation, court records show.
A man who police say fired at a Baton Rouge officer — prompting the officer to return gunfire — following a Tuesday evening traffic stop remai…