When he heard about allegations that Louisiana State Police troopers had beaten a Black man to death and then tried to cover up their actions, Aaron Bowman contacted an attorney. 

He later filed a lawsuit alleging grave similarities between his own experience and that of Ronald Greene, the man who died in police custody. 

That lawsuit entered the spotlight last week when State Police announced the arrest of a trooper accused of beating Bowman with a flashlight outside his Monroe home in May 2019 — just weeks after Greene died, allegedly following another brutal incident that also occurred in the Monroe area. The similarities have amplified calls for State Police to root out systemic racism and demonstrate transparency, namely by releasing bodycam footage of both encounters. 

Flanked by a cadre of attorneys and supporters, Bowman stood on the State Capitol steps Monday afternoon in downtown Baton Rouge and cried quietly when asked to explain why he was there: "To make sure this don't happen to anybody else." 

Attorneys Donecia Banks-Miley and Kristen Pleasant said they hope Bowman's courage will motivate other people to come forward, if indeed there are more with similar stories out there.

"This is a literal cry for justice right here," said Dedrick Moore, another attorney on the case.

Both Bowman and Greene were beaten with a flashlight, according to the lawyers. But State Police did not open investigations into either case until receiving lawsuits accusing troopers of using excessive force and lying about it. The agency has also refused to release bodycam footage until its investigations are complete. 

That lack of transparency is unacceptable, especially coming from Louisiana's premier law enforcement agency, Bowman's attorneys said.

State Police are often called upon to investigate police shootings and other critical incidents involving different law enforcement agencies across the state. Critics argue that role should demand heightened transparency — especially given the series of racially charged controversies plaguing the organization.

State Police is now operating under the leadership of its fourth-ever Black superintendent, who was appointed in October.  His appointment came not long after Greene's family filed their wrongful death suit.

State Police had initially claimed Greene died upon impact after crashing his car during a police chase, but the lawsuit alleges troopers actually beat the man to death, leaving him "bloodied and in cardiac arrest" before covering up what happened.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

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

The Department of Justice has opened a federal civil rights investigation.

State Police did arrange for Greene's family and their attorneys to view the bodycam footage in that case, though the video has not been made public. Bowman, however, has not yet been allowed to see the footage from his own encounter with troopers — even after Jacob Brown was arrested last week and accused of striking Bowman 18 times with a flashlight and then attempting to hide the video from his superiors.

Brown, a trooper with Troop F in Monroe, faces one count each of aggravated second-degree battery and malfeasance in office. He remains on administrative leave.

Attorneys for Bowman also noted that Brown's father is the former State Police assistant superintendent and chief of staff Bob Brown, who recently retired from the force. 

Jacob Brown's superiors did not start investigating his behavior until after Bowman had filed a lawsuit. The complaint details the extent of his injuries resulting from the alleged beating: a cut on his head that required stitches, a fractured arm and broken ribs. 

During the press conference, Bowman pushed back his red knit hat to show his scar from the stitches. 

His attorneys demanded complete reform of what they called a cultural problem at Troop F, which has been plagued with controversies over the past few months.

Hours after learning he would be fired for his role in Greene's death, Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth died in a single-car crash in late September. Several days later, another trooper from Troop F — the son of former agency head Col. Kevin Reeves — was responding to a call when he rear-ended a vehicle, leaving the child and teen backseat passengers dead from the impact. 

State Police have not released information about whether Kaleb Reeves will be disciplined for his role in the crash. His father also spent decades with Troop F in Monroe before being appointed superintendent in 2017. Kevin Reeves stepped down from the position in late October; officials said he had planned to retire around that time regardless of the recent scandals.

The new superintendent, Col. Lamar Davis, has pledged to root out misconduct within the agency. He also pledged transparency, but has not expedited the release of bodycam footage.

Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.