The attorney for a man injured in a violent arrest in Baton Rouge is demanding the release of the Police Department's footage of the encounter.
Attorney Ronald Haley Jr. said he is concerned police used excessive force after viewing multiple bystander videos of the Oct. 24 incident. Those videos show two Baton Rouge Police officers on top of Steven Young, at times throwing punches. But Police Department officials say the officers' actions were justified in their arrest of Young, who later required medical attention.
"The videos themselves are very troubling," Haley said. "Every video, you hear at least three or four people all saying the same thing, ‘This guy is defenseless, you keep on beating on him.'”
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On Monday, Haley asked the courts to order the Baton Rouge Police Department to release the body- and dash-camera footage from the incident, as well as the police reports. He said he filed a public records request for them earlier this month but received no response from the agency.
The Advocate, in November, also requested body- and dash-camera footage from the incident. But it, too, was denied based on the fact that the criminal case against Young is ongoing.
Baton Rouge Deputy Chief Jonny Dunnam said Tuesday that they can not release the footage before the criminal case is addressed. He said the incident does not fall under the department's new critical incident policy, which would allow for a quicker release of such footage, because Young was not checked into a hospital. However, Dunnam acknowledged that Young required medical attention before the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison would book him.
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After the violent encounter, officers found a loaded gun in Young's pants, which he could not legally possess because he was a convicted felon. He was arrested on counts of illegally possessing and carrying the firearm, resisting arrest with force and possession of marijuana — the latter of which began the police interaction.
According to the police report on his arrest, officers approached Young because they noticed a marijuana cigarette in his mouth as he sat atop a motorcycle outside his apartment complex in the 11400 block of Bard Avenue.
When officers approached Young, he tried to conceal the drug, the report says, and then tried to flee by pulling the motorcycle forward. The officers tried to restrain Young, who fell but then got up and tried to run again, the report says.
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"Officers attempted to tase the defendant. This proved to be ineffective," the report says. "The defendant then physically fought with officers for several minutes while punching, biting and kicking. Numerous verbal commands were issued and ignored."
Young disputed many of the details from the report. He said he never tried to flee and claimed he was tackled by the officers, then tried to stand up, but was tackled again. He insisted that he did not resist and claimed he was repeatedly hit in the head even after he was handcuffed.
"I’ve been in situations like that before where I could run away," Young said, comparing other fights with this altercation with the two officers. "That is the worst whooping because I can’t run away from them. … It was no fight because I couldn’t fight them.”
Young said the officers both tried to subdue him with a stun gun. He said they also used pepper spray on him, and choked and repeatedly punched him in the head. He said he moved in reaction to their aggression, not to fight back. Two weeks after the arrest and encounter, Young said, his head and neck were still tender, his right hand still in pain.
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But Dunnam said officers were fighting for their lives as they struggled with Young for more than seven minutes before backup arrived to help.
He said officers were able to handcuff Young in the front, but that is not the most secure way and it still allows a subject to hit and move his arms. They were only able to handcuff him behind his back after backup came to help get him under control.
“When a suspect is still resisting and attempting to bite the officers hands, the officer has every right to strike an individual," Dunnam said. "He was not cooperating at all."
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Haley said that while the videos show Young moving at times under the officers, it appears to him that Young was reacting to the physical beating.
"We will not rush to judgment; we will ask right now for transparency," Haley said. "If what we find is consistent with what's on these videos, as swiftly as we’re going to ask for transparency, we're going to swiftly ask for action.”
The videos were taken by neighbors on the street and in the apartments. In two that were shared with The Advocate, bystanders voice concern about the way the officers are treating Young.
"He can't f****** move and y'all still hitting him?" one bystander said. "C'mon man."
One neighbor, Randy Brown, said he could not believe what was happening when he saw the police encounter.
“When I came outside, they were beating the crap out of that man," Brown said. He said he had just spoken to his 15-year-old son about how police protect and serve and need to be respected — but then incidents like this happen.
“It’s wrong," Brown said. "I was disgusted."
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