WBRZ https://www.wbrz.com/ WBRZ The Investigative Unit The Investigative Unit en-us Copyright 2021, WBRZ. All Rights Reserved. Feed content is not avaialble for commercial use. () () Tue, 2 Mar 2021 HH:03:ss GMT Synapse CMS 10 WBRZ https://www.wbrz.com/ 144 25 Murdered mother's 3 small children caught in middle of custody battle https://www.wbrz.com/news/murdered-mother-s-3-small-children-caught-in-middle-of-custody-battle/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/murdered-mother-s-3-small-children-caught-in-middle-of-custody-battle/ The Investigative Unit Thu, 25 Feb 2021 4:24:31 PM Chris Nakamoto Murdered mother's 3 small children caught in middle of custody battle

BATON ROUGE - It's been more than two weeks since 25-year old Tannya Moreau was allegedly shot and killed by her husband at her Central home. Now, her parents are fighting to get custody of the three kids she left behind.

Ashanti Witherspoon and his wife Susan Witherspoon, Tannya's mother, said the past two weeks have been horrific. Their grandchildren are 4 years old, 2 years old and 6 months old.

Her mother fought back tears Thursday describing what it's been like having to explain to Tannya's oldest that his mom isn't coming home.

"He kept asking me if I could call his mom," Susan Witherspoon said. "I told him I can't. Finally I said just look up and yell as loud as you can, 'momma I love you.' And whenever he did he was ok for a little while."

Tannya was shot and killed at a home on Blackwater Road on Feb. 7, 2021. Initially, detectives reported that her death was a possible suicide, but new forensic evidence came forward this week showing it would have been impossible for Tannya to shoot herself that way. Her husband, Luke Moreau was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

Rahsha Williams is a close family friend. Tannya grew up with her kids.

"She was a beautiful girl," Williams said. "Loved life, and I know one thing: she really loved her children."

Williams said Tannya did a good job not telling her closest family and friends about the abuse she endured. But some neighbors knew, along with others.

"A lot of times we don't want to get involved," Williams said. "But keeping somebody alive, that is your business. If someone is being abused you've got to remember they are a victim, especially when children are involved. Those kids were in the home the night he shot her. If you can't do it for the adult, do it for the child."

Tannya's stepdad echoed those sentiments.

"It's important for anyone in a situation taking place, to where it might lead to violence or what have you, to step forward and say something," Ashanti Witherspoon said. "We didn't even know this was going on in her life."

As Tannya is no longer here, the grief is unbearable for her family and a son-in-law they once loved.

"I've asked god to give me forgiveness to him," Susan Witherspoon said. "Not to have bitterness and hate in my heart for him, because he took one of the most precious things in the world from us. I ask God to help me to be able to forgive him."

In a complex custody situation, the state named Tannya's parents "foster parents" of their grandchildren until formal custody paperwork can be completed.

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Family of man killed in deadly crash puzzled about why identified suspect hasn't been arrested https://www.wbrz.com/news/family-of-man-killed-in-deadly-crash-puzzled-about-why-identified-suspect-hasn-t-been-arrested/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/family-of-man-killed-in-deadly-crash-puzzled-about-why-identified-suspect-hasn-t-been-arrested/ The Investigative Unit Thu, 18 Feb 2021 4:35:38 PM Chris Nakamoto Family of man killed in deadly crash puzzled about why identified suspect hasn't been arrested

LULING- Frustration is mounting for the family of a man from Baton Rouge killed by a hit-and-run driver on the Luling bridge near New Orleans last month.


The driver, who has been identified, has not been arrested.

Brady Ortego, of Baton Rouge, was working on the bridge when the driver crashed through the work site on January 14. The driver apparently walked away from the crash scene, leaving behind the heavily damaged vehicle.

For the last month, Ortego's wife, Adele Domingue Ortego, has been dealing with the unimaginable pain of losing her husband and also concern the driver identified as causing the deadly crash is free. 

"This man was an amazing man who didn't deserve this," Domingue Ortego said. "He has an army of people who love him, and we can't say goodbye because we are so caught up in this, and the lack of justice, that we have not been able to do him the service he deserves."

Ortego was installing cameras on the Luling Bridge when an out-of-control driver crashed into the worksite. Ortego was thrown over the bridge and into the Mississippi River. His body has not been found. The driver of the mangled vehicle got out of the truck and walked down the bridge after the truck he was driving was disabled.

State Police were able to identify the driver, but have not made an arrest, raising serious questions about why he's still free.

State Police released a statement to the WBRZ Investigative Unit about why there hasn't been an arrest:

"LSP is continuing to investigate the hit and run crash that occurred on the Interstate 310 Hale Boggs Bridge on January 14th, 2021. At the conclusion of the investigation, Troopers will present physical evidence as well as findings from the scene to the St. Charles Parish District Attorney for consultation of criminal charges. The investigation is ongoing and there is no additional information available at this time."

The WBRZ Investigative Unit, following leads from sources, found the vehicle involved in the deadly crash was recently released to the owner. WBRZ recorded video of the truck parked at a home, covered with a tarp in Reserve.  WBRZ sources said the vehicle was released back to the owner after it was processed for evidence. DNA was taken from a blood-stained airbag and proved to be a match to the person presumed to be driving the vehicle at the time of the deadly crash.

"We have to go to bed every night and wake up every morning and there's no justice," Domingue Ortego said. "The person responsible is out there living his life and has not even had a slap on the wrist."

Domingue Ortego said she is speaking up on her husband's behalf and her faith in the justice system is fading with each passing day.

"Brady is probably the most loving individual that anyone could ever meet," Domingue Ortego said. "He would give anyone the last shirt off his back and the last dollar in his pocket even if he needed it. He's never met a human that he didn't love."

The WBRZ Investigative Unit asked the St. Charles Parish District Attorney for a comment but hasn't heard back.

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Disgraced trooper exposed by WBRZ wants to stay on payroll, demands investigation into LSP leaks https://www.wbrz.com/news/disgraced-trooper-exposed-by-wbrz-wants-to-stay-on-payroll-demands-investigation-into-lsp-leaks/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/disgraced-trooper-exposed-by-wbrz-wants-to-stay-on-payroll-demands-investigation-into-lsp-leaks/ The Investigative Unit Thu, 11 Feb 2021 3:42:23 PM Chris Nakamoto Disgraced trooper exposed by WBRZ wants to stay on payroll, demands investigation into LSP leaks

BATON ROUGE - Fresh out of jail from two arrests in different parishes for using excessive force, Trooper Jacob Brown appeared in Baton Rouge Thursday morning with bold requests for the State Police Commission.

Brown and his attorney asked the commission to have him reinstated, and they wanted an investigation launched into the leaks that have been coming from Louisiana State Police. Ultimately, the commission denied their request by not even entertaining it.

Click here to watch the report live on News 2 at 6:00

Brown's attorney, Scott Wolleson, has not been happy with the reporting by the WBRZ Investigative Unit involving his clients.

"Mr. Brown was arrested Monday, and before we reached the jail WBRZ was already reporting the arrest," Wolleson said. "Christopher Hollingsworth was suspended and received notice he was going to be terminated. I was involved in that. As we know there were 17 seconds of audio released to WBRZ that has now been quoted in national news around the country."

Hollingsworth was also exposed by WBRZ after he admitted to beating Ronald Greene to death in the Monroe area. Initially, state troopers had told Greene's family he died in a fender bender following a chase.

Brown is charged in three different excessive force incidents that occurred over the past two years. The WBRZ Investigative Unit exposed this week that training academy documents suggested that he should have been kicked out for lying twice. Brown graduated the 2015 academy. His father was the former Chief of Staff for Louisiana State Police before he retired last year. Brown refused to answer questions about the excessive force incidents he was involved in as he exited the hearing.

"He did not pass the smell test," Belinda Brown with the Louisiana United International, Inc. said. "How did he become an officer?"

Arrest documents obtained by WBRZ show the lies Brown told in the academy have now spilled over into his work. Brown's most recent arrest records show he was untruthful with a story he told about a handcuffed subject. The arrest warrant noted the force that he used was unnecessary.

State Police Colonel Lamar Davis weighed in.

"We received some information and a complaint," Colonel Davis said, "Based upon that, we went through the investigation which led to the arrests of those troopers."

Four troopers, including Brown, were arrested Monday for those excessive force incidents. They occurred between 2019 and 2020.

"In this position, you don't set out to investigate any of your personnel or make arrests of any of your personnel," Davis said. "That's one of the toughest things I've ever had to do."

Davis said he wants the public to know that, while he's in charge, restoring the public's trust is his priority.

"We have great people, and we are out there doing the right thing," Davis said. "If they are not, we will hold them accountable."

State Police administration told the commission Thursday that Trooper Jacob Brown had exhausted all of his paid administrative leave hours. The commission allowed Brown to begin using his annual leave which amounts to nearly six months of pay as the investigation into his actions continues.

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NAKAMOTO: Leaked training documents show arrested La. trooper lacked 'core values' to be state policeman https://www.wbrz.com/news/nakamoto-leaked-training-documents-show-arrested-la-trooper-lacked-core-values-to-be-state-policeman/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/nakamoto-leaked-training-documents-show-arrested-la-trooper-lacked-core-values-to-be-state-policeman/ The Investigative Unit Tue, 9 Feb 2021 11:56:41 AM Chris Nakamoto NAKAMOTO: Leaked training documents show arrested La. trooper lacked 'core values' to be state policeman

BATON ROUGE- Training academy documents obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit through sources at State Police show one of four state troopers arrested Monday in an excessive force probe should never have been allowed to graduate from the State Police academy.

CLICK HERE: WBRZ and Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto were first to report the arrest Monday morning.

Among the four arrested was Trooper Jacob Brown who, Nakamoto learned Tuesday, was recommended for termination for lying during the trooper's academy.

Rafael Goyeneche a corruption watchdog said the documents foreshadowed what was to come.

“Those training academy documents were prophetic,” Goyeneche said. “They prophesied what was going to happen and predicted the future. The whole point of the training academy is to determine if someone has the moral makeup to be a trooper.” 

But, despite the recommendation from an academy sergeant, Brown graduated the 2015 police academy. More than five years later, WBRZ first reported, he was facing multiple charges for how internal affairs detectives said he handled citizens in at least three different encounters as a Louisiana State Trooper.

While in the academy, documents obtained by WBRZ show Brown lied about prohibited items he had in his dorm on two occasions. It involved tobacco products an academy sergeant said Brown hid in the ceiling of his dorm room. The records leaked to WBRZ by State Police insiders, were first requested by Robert Burns, who runs the blog Soundoff Louisiana. Burns confirmed documents given to WBRZ were the same documents he received through a public records request inquiring about Jacob Brown's academy records.

An internal memo stated, "Cadet Brown violated the Cadet manual by possessing tobacco products during training. He violated the State Police core values with a lack of integrity by lying to the duty officers when asked about the contraband."

The memo continued, "Cadet Brown is not demonstrating the necessary character traits that represent the State Police core values."

The documents went on to say, “These character flaws are a strong indication of the type of trooper Cadet Brown will ultimately become. He is willing to cut corners and express himself in a disrespectful and deceptive manner… These are traits of a toxic employee…”

Monday, Brown was charged in two separate cases for using excessive force and malfeasance in office. When charged and arrested, Brown was accused of having deactivated his body camera during a 2019 incident that involved excessive force on a driver he pulled over. In a late news release Monday, State Police later elaborated Brown did the same thing in May 2020. Brown's arrest record suggested he deliberately mislabeled video from that arrest as a "citizen encounter," even though it was considered a use of force encounter. Internal investigators believed it was an effort to hide it from his superiors.

Brown was arrested in December for another excessive force incident involving Aaron Bowman. The incident between Bowman and Brown occurred a year earlier.

Brown's father is the former State Police Chief of Staff to the agency's superintendent. During the incidents and his time at the academy, Brown's father, Bob Brown, held high-ranking positions at State Police. He's since retired.

An attorney for Aaron Bowman, the man beaten during an encounter with a trooper who State Police have said was Jacob Brown, believes department connections allowed the younger Brown to operate without oversight.

"It's absolutely no coincidence," Attorney Ron Haley said. "This was a cover-up. The chief of staff used his power to protect his son until he couldn't protect him anymore. It's obvious. They will say something different I'm sure, but we have common sense."

Goyeneche echoed those sentiments Tuesday.

“Because he wasn't terminated, a cancer was released into the State Police,” Goyeneche said. “We saw that manifestations of his integrity issues not once, not twice but three times.”

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'He wasn't paying attention': Witness describes state trooper's crash that killed 2 girls https://www.wbrz.com/news/he-wasn-t-paying-attention-witness-describes-state-trooper-s-crash-that-killed-2-kids/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/he-wasn-t-paying-attention-witness-describes-state-trooper-s-crash-that-killed-2-kids/ The Investigative Unit Wed, 3 Feb 2021 10:56:14 AM Chris Nakamoto 'He wasn't paying attention': Witness describes state trooper's crash that killed 2 girls

MONROE - A witness who watched a Louisiana state trooper cause a crash that killed two people is explaining exactly what she witnessed on that fateful night, saying the crash happened because the trooper was not paying attention.

It comes as multiple sources have confirmed to the WBRZ Investigative Unit that Trooper Kaleb Reeves has returned to active duty at Troop F following an at-fault crash where two people died.

Reeves is the son of former State Police Superintendent Kevin Reeves. The younger Reeves became a trooper in 2017.

Click here for the initial breaking news story about the crash. 

The double fatal crash happened late in the evening of Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. At the time of the crash, State Police said Reeves was responding to a call and slammed into the back of a sedan causing it to rotate.

Crystal Bracknell watched Reeves slam into the back of the car.

"It was horrifying," Bracknell said. "Seeing the car when it flipped and knowing something was wrong."

Reeves was driving a State Police-issued SUV.

"He wasn't paying attention," Bracknell said. "There was plenty of time to make a maneuver to get over. If he had his lights on the car, could have gone over and let him go on. There was none of that. Those children shouldn't have died."

The WBRZ Investigative Unit received crash documents through a public records request which indicated Reeves has been in three crashes since he started working for State Police three years ago.  In addition to the deadly crash, records indicate an earlier accident was also considered Kaleb Reeves' fault. 

In a crash investigation concerning the deadly wreck, documents reported witnesses saw Reeves driving at a high rate of speed without police emergency lights activated. Crash documents show there was no weather concern that evening, and a forecast suggested it was a clear night.

According to vehicle recording data obtained through the WBRZ public record request, Reeves was traveling 77 miles per in the five seconds before impacting the other vehicle.  Data from the state SUV showed brakes were applied 2.5 second before impact.  When the SUV collided with the back of the other vehicle, Reeves' vehicle was traveling 57 mph. 

Two backseat passengers in the other vehicle, 18-year-old Kajenne Lindsey and 11-year-old Anjenne Lindsey, were killed.

Bracknell said she's speaking up because the truth needs to be told.

"When you hold citizens accountable, you need to hold everyone accountable no matter who it is," Bracknell said.

She believes a double standard exists and that if the roles were reversed someone else would have been ticketed immediately or arrested.

"I'm certain I would have been put in jail," Bracknell said. "But he should have at least got a ticket, at minimum."

Wednesday, WBRZ asked Louisiana State Police for a comment.  No comment was provided at the time this story was initially published. 

Kevin Reeves abruptly retired in October after his son's crash and amid a series of ongoing WBRZ reports about controversies within the department while he was superintendent. 

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Elected official charged after online post about killing, eating federally protected birds https://www.wbrz.com/news/elected-official-charged-after-online-post-about-killing-eating-federally-protected-birds/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/elected-official-charged-after-online-post-about-killing-eating-federally-protected-birds/ The Investigative Unit Mon, 1 Feb 2021 3:54:10 PM Chris Nakamoto Elected official charged after online post about killing, eating federally protected birds

PLAQUEMINE- Iberville Parish Councilman Raheem Pierce learned the hard way that not everything should be posted to social media.

In a post about his breakfast Friday, Pierce noted "Fried Robin fresh out of the backyard for breakfast! #countrylife #wecansurvive."

State Wildlife Agents showed up at Pierce's door Friday after the post was made and issued a summons for "taking Robins." Robins are migratory song birds that are federally protected. Agents with LDWF said possible penalties could be up to a $1,000 fine and/or 120 days in jail. Pierce admits that he killed at least 10 Robins but did not know that was illegal.

"We used a pellet gun," Pierce said. "I only ate four."

Pierce talked to WBRZ over ZOOM and took full responsibility for his actions. He said he was in Alabama helping with tornado cleanup.

"I would not be a very intelligent person with the position that I'm in to post something illegal," Pierce said. "It was a simple mistake that I was unaware of."

Pierce said he learned his lesson the hard way.

"I'm going to face whatever consequences I have to face," Pierce said. "My title doesn't exclude me from whatever consequences I have to face. Whatever consequences I have to face, I'll face."

Pierce made history in Iberville Parish has the youngest person to ever be elected on the parish council. Pierce was still in high school when voters selected him to represent District 6.

The summons Pierce was issued gave him a criminal court date and a date to make civil restitution.

"I didn't know it was illegal," Pierce said. "I know now, and I've learned from it. It's time to move on and continue to do great things in my community."

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New Roads mayor fires 2 high-ranking police officers despite staffing shortages https://www.wbrz.com/news/new-roads-mayor-fires-2-high-ranking-police-officers-despite-staffing-shortages/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/new-roads-mayor-fires-2-high-ranking-police-officers-despite-staffing-shortages/ The Investigative Unit Mon, 18 Jan 2021 5:36:02 PM Chris Nakamoto New Roads mayor fires 2 high-ranking police officers despite staffing shortages

NEW ROADS - New Roads Mayor Cornell Dukes terminated a captain and lieutenant in the New Roads Police Department Friday saying their positions have been eliminated.

Captain Delaney Lee and Lieutenant Mike Johnson were both handed their termination papers Friday.

Lee told WBRZ he believes his termination is direct retaliation from a WBRZ Investigative Unit report that aired in December that showcased Mayor Cornell Dukes using a police detail at the taxpayers' expense. He's the only mayor in a city that size that uses a police detail.

At the time, he told us he had threats to his life and it was for security. But, the WBRZ Investigative Unit checked with every law enforcement entity and could not find a threat Mayor Dukes had filed pertaining to his safety.

"I know for a fact that some of his family members were going around town saying I was the one that contacted you about the driver," Captain Lee said. "I didn't contact you until Friday when I was terminated. You and I hadn't spoke about anything prior."

Lee was not the source of our story that aired last month. He said problems first arose when he stopped signing the timesheets for the detail.

"When I was over uniform patrol, part of the problem was when I started receiving timesheets with ridiculous overtime I refused to sign them," Lee said.

Lee said it was well documented that Mayor Dukes was not using the detail to benefit the City of New Roads.

"It's not city business," Lee said. "We are taking the community's money, and we are spending the community's money on drivers taking the mayor to night clubs, dinner dates, taking him to have drinks, sitting in his parking lot until his company is ready to leave. The whole time the city is paying for this."

The WBRZ Investigative Unit reached out to Dukes. We asked him about Lee's allegations and whether police officers were ferrying him out of the city for drinks, dinner dates and night clubs. Dukes refused to answer that question multiple times over the phone. We asked if the allegations were true or false.

"It doesn't deserve an answer," Dukes said.

Dukes told WBRZ by phone that the fruits of their labor were paying off and those spots occupied by Lee and Johnson were no longer needed. Instead, he said he would contract those positions out. We asked why he would contract those positions out if they were not needed, and Dukes did not provide clear answers.

"Mike Johnson had two years left to retire and was looking forward to working two years," Lee said. "To take his retirement away from him for personal reasons. He did nothing wrong, and neither did I, but to take his retirement for personal reasons... That has to be answered for."

The New Roads City Council was scheduled to discuss the situation on Tuesday at their meeting at 5:30pm. However, Councilman Kirk White said that meeting has been canceled.

"It will come up at some point," White told WBRZ Monday.

As for Lee, he said the taxpayers deserve an explanation as to what Dukes is doing.

"My next course of action is legal," Lee said. "All of this is strictly retaliation."

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After 2 years, BRPD says it has exhausted all leads in Nessa Hartley's murder https://www.wbrz.com/news/after-2-years-brpd-says-it-has-exhausted-all-leads-in-nessa-hartley-s-murder/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/after-2-years-brpd-says-it-has-exhausted-all-leads-in-nessa-hartley-s-murder/ The Investigative Unit Wed, 13 Jan 2021 5:38:04 PM Chris Nakamoto After 2 years, BRPD says it has exhausted all leads in Nessa Hartley's murder

BATON ROUGE- This week marks two years since Janessa Hartley was gunned down in the driveway of a home in Sherwood Forest as she dropped a friend off who was celebrating her birthday.

Two long years later, and Baton Rouge Police are no closer to solving her murder. In fact, Baton Rouge Police said today they have exhausted all leads and have come up with nothing. The case remains open.

"We don't have much at this time," L'Jean McKneely with Baton Rouge Police said.

In the months following her death, Baton Rouge Police said they believed two suspects were responsible. Evidence submitted to the crime lab came back inconclusive, and no arrests have been made.

Hartley's murder rocked the Sherwood Forest community to the core. A new family lives in the home where Nessa was killed, and there are also new neighbors across the street.

"I'm not scared of living here," Sheika Williams said. "I feel like I'm perfectly safe. Even though crime happens anywhere, I feel like I'm safe here."

The neighborhood recently connected cameras to the Real-Time Crime Center at Baton Rouge Police.

Hartley's widower declined to do an interview, but he did say the past two years have been tough. He said his family holds on to hope that her killer will be arrested someday, and she had no known enemies.

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Elected official plans to step down after WBRZ report, furious with Investigative Unit https://www.wbrz.com/news/elected-official-plans-to-step-down-after-wbrz-report-furious-with-investigative-unit/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/elected-official-plans-to-step-down-after-wbrz-report-furious-with-investigative-unit/ The Investigative Unit Thu, 7 Jan 2021 4:40:48 PM Chris Nakamoto Elected official plans to step down after WBRZ report, furious with Investigative Unit

ASCENSION PARISH - Two months after the WBRZ Investigative Unit exposed Justice of the Peace John Hebert's actions, he abruptly called it quits by posting a sign on the door of his office this week.

His resignation caught many elected officials by surprise.

In October, the WBRZ Investigative Unit exposed Hebert was handling cases outside of his jurisdiction. We submitted a public records request to Hebert asking for information about eviction cases. Hebert appeared to ignore the email even though we received an auto-reply from him thanking us for the public records request.

Thursday, Hebert was fuming mad about the report.

"That's dirty Chris," Hebert said to Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto. "I think it's kind of sleazy what you did."

Hebert maintains he never got that request.

Hebert admitted that he did handle cases that were outside his jurisdiction during our interview Thursday, and also said that his decision to step down had nothing to do with the story. Instead, he claimed he was thinking about retirement.

"Recently I met with HR at the sheriff's office and realized it benefits me to go back to the sheriff's office to better my retirement for the betterment of my family," Hebert said.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit checked with Ascension Parish Sheriff Bobby Webre. He said there have been no promises of a job for Hebert in his administration.

Hebert's resignation comes two months after he won re-election to another six-year term as justice of the peace. Why he abruptly retired two months after his re-election is a question only Hebert can answer. Christie Mayeux, his colleague in another justice court, said his actions in the past have amounted to a money grab. She also believes what he was doing was criminal.

"For many, many years he's been hearing things outside of his jurisdiction," Mayeux said. "There are companies that are not domiciled in Ascension Parish. He's allowed those companies to file suits in his court, and neither the defendant or the plaintiff reside in Ascension Parish."

As we were waiting for Hebert to do an interview with us, a State Department of Transportation dump truck arrived on his property with a special delivery. The worker said Hebert had requested dirt.

Hebert said anyone in the parish can get that dirt if they call DOTD and they'll drop it off at your home for free. Hebert said he did not request it though.

"They called us and said, 'we in the area. Do ya'll have a place we can dump so we don't have to make a run across town?'" Hebert explained. "I received a call from a DOTD supervisor asking if we could take it, and I said yeah."

Hebert said he intends to submit his resignation to the Secretary of State's Office within the next week.

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Taxpayers foot bill for mayor's $24K security detail despite no threats on record https://www.wbrz.com/news/taxpayers-foot-bill-for-mayor-s-24k-security-detail-despite-no-threats-on-record/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/taxpayers-foot-bill-for-mayor-s-24k-security-detail-despite-no-threats-on-record/ The Investigative Unit Thu, 17 Dec 2020 2:48:53 PM Chris Nakamoto Taxpayers foot bill for mayor's $24K security detail despite no threats on record

NEW ROADS- The Mayor of New Roads said he needs a police officer with him at all times due to safety concerns and threats that have been made on his life.

But, the WBRZ Investigative Unit found the New Roads Police Department had no threats reported against Mayor Cornell Dukes.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit found taxpayers shelled out at least $24,000 over a year's time for one officer to be with the mayor. That officer, Byron Lewis worked more than 1,300 hours based on our calculations from timesheets the WBRZ Investigative Unit received through a public records request.

Dukes is an anomaly, as he's the only Mayor in a small city that uses a security detail.

"This is a petty conversation that doesn't rise to the occasion of having to do an interview," Dukes said.

He claimed he's filed reports about death threats and physical harm to his life, but would not say when or which agency they're filed with.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit did the following research.

CITY                                               POPULATION                                                 MAYOR

New Roads                                        4,553                                     Cornell Dukes... uses detail.

Port Allen                                          4,963                                     Richard Lee said he has never used a detail.

Denham Springs                             10,282                                   Gerard Landry said he has never used a detail.

Zachary                                           16,723                                    David Amrhein said he has never used a detail.

Gonzales                                         10,677                                    Barney Arceneaux said he has never used a detail.

Central                                            28,864                                    David Barrow said he has never used a detail.

Plaquemine                                     6,621                                      Ed Reeves said he has never used a detail.

Multiple mayors in cities larger than New Roads called the situation that we told them about ridiculous. In addition to that, multiple sources told the WBRZ Investigative Unit the detail is not justified.

Wednesday, New Roads Police Chief Kevin McDonald provided the WBRZ Investigative Unit with a file number of a complaint that Mayor Dukes filed last year in East Baton Rouge Parish.

We checked. Records show that report involves a dispute between Duke, his ex-girlfriend and another female.

Kirk 'Clipper' White has been a sitting councilman since 1999. He said he has never seen a mayor use a detail like Dukes.

"I was aware to some extent that the mayor had a driver on occasion, but I was not aware to what extent until you brought it to my attention," White said.

What Dukes is doing is not illegal, but it could cause problems if auditors come looking. The Louisiana Constitution mandates that public money must be used in a reasonable manner.

White said there has been a lot of economic development in New Roads as of late, but he could not say that's a result of the police detail.

"We've got a lot of new and exciting things happening in New Roads. So, from that standpoint, I don't think our population has increased a whole lot," White said. "But economic development is on the rise I would say."

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BRPD officer took muscle car for joyride while on duty https://www.wbrz.com/news/brpd-officer-took-muscle-car-for-joyride-while-on-duty/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/brpd-officer-took-muscle-car-for-joyride-while-on-duty/ The Investigative Unit Mon, 14 Dec 2020 4:39:18 PM Chris Nakamoto BRPD officer took muscle car for joyride while on duty

BATON ROUGE- Multiple sources confirmed to the WBRZ Investigative Unit that a police officer took a muscle car for a joyride while he was on a shots fired call.

It happened earlier this year, but Officer Kendarius Franklin was not disciplined for the unauthorized use of the car. Instead, Baton Rouge Police said he was disciplined for having a low body camera battery.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit learned Officer Franklin showed up in the 700 block of East Boyd to a shots fired call. Responding officers quickly realized the sound of the shots were actually coming from a Dodge Charger with a 6.2 liter V8 engine. Car enthusiasts rave about that vehicle and its ability to travel 182 miles per hour, going zero to 60 in four seconds.

That car apparently caught the eye of Officer Franklin who took it for a spin. The owner did not give Franklin permission to drive it, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. Instead, those on the scene watched in disbelief.

When the case was investigated by Internal Affairs, Officer Franklin was disciplined for having a low body camera battery. He was issued a conference worksheet, which our sources said is the equivalent of a slap on the wrist.

Those sources said that officer should have been charged for unauthorized use of a movable. Franklin was actually turned in by one of his coworkers who could not believe that it happened.

Kaleb Duncan lives in the area and said East Boyd turns into a speed strip. He is beyond disappointed that the officer who is supposed to be upholding the laws did what he did.

"I think if it was a regular civilian there would have been a way harsher punishment, and everyone should be held to the same account," Duncan said. "If you do the crime you do the time as they say."

Baton Rouge Police declined to be interviewed for this story. Our sources said Officer Franklin is a rookie officer.

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Vice president of Baton Rouge Police Union sues BRPD https://www.wbrz.com/news/vice-president-of-baton-rouge-police-union-sues-brpd/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/vice-president-of-baton-rouge-police-union-sues-brpd/ The Investigative Unit Fri, 4 Dec 2020 3:53:26 PM WBRZ Staff Vice president of Baton Rouge Police Union sues BRPD

BATON ROUGE - The vice president of the Baton Rouge Police Union, Siya Creel, filed a lawsuit against the City of Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge Police Department Friday alleging his rights were violated.

In the lawsuit, filed in district court Friday, Creel alleges his free-speech rights were violated after he was placed on leave for doing an interview about union billboards with a "media blogger."

Creel was investigated for conduct unbecoming an officer, unauthorized statements, and alleged violation of the social media policy. On Nov. 12, Creel attended a pre-disciplinary hearing with Chief Murphy Paul and command staff at BRPD. The lawsuit states he asked to go on sick leave to undergo treatments for cancer.

"Defendants then pronounced petitioner 'guilty' of allegedly violating the BRPD 'media policy' because Petitioner gave the interview to media regarding union activities," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit says one day after Creel began his treatments, BRPD began contacting him attempting to retrieve his "badge, gun, computer and all BRPD-issued equipment."

On Dec. 1, Creel returned to work from his sick leave, and Internal Affairs removed all of his BRPD-issued equipment and informed him he was placed on leave.

The lawsuit states Creel's rights of free speech have been violated. It was filed by Attorney Jill Craft and allotted to Judge Tim Kelley.

We reached out to Baton Rouge Police.

Police Chief Murphy Paul said, "The Baton Rouge Police Department has complete and total respect for the First Amendment rights of every citizen in our community. This includes every member of our department. Having said that, we will not speak on an administrative investigation."

The International Association of Police Union released the following statement:

"The International Union of Police Associations has been made aware of a lawsuit filed in state court today against the City of Baton Rouge/Baton Rouge Police Department and the Chief of Police in regard to Officer Siya Creel and his duties as Vice President of the Baton Rouge Union of Police.

The allegations in the lawsuit are disturbing. The lawsuit alleges that the Baton Rouge Police Department and Chief of Police have violated Mr. Creel's right of Free Speech and Association under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (and Louisiana Constitution Article 1, Sections 7 and 9) for speaking in his capacity as an elected union official in regard to union matters of public concern. As this case moves forward, we will use all resources possible to assure his rights are protected.

An E.E.O.C. complaint has also been filed on behalf of Officer Creel. The details of that complaint will be forthcoming.

The International Union of Police Associations is working with local attorneys in protecting officers from a Chief of Police who is seemingly dedicated to silencing police union leadership.

President Sam A. Cabral of the International Union of Police Associations commented on the suit, "A Chief of Police is, or should be, well aware of the Constitutional Rights of his employees and should be dedicated to preserving and respecting them. Ignoring their First Amendment Rights is a terrible example to set for the men and women he is paid to lead."

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Fired Southern University law professor loses fight over termination in court again https://www.wbrz.com/news/fired-southern-university-law-professor-loses-fight-over-termination-in-court-again/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/fired-southern-university-law-professor-loses-fight-over-termination-in-court-again/ The Investigative Unit Wed, 18 Nov 2020 4:39:15 PM Chris Nakamoto Fired Southern University law professor loses fight over termination in court again

BATON ROUGE - A state district court judge dismissed Dorothy Jackson's lawsuit against Southern University recently, but her attorneys said she will appeal.

It is the second time a lawsuit she's filed was dismissed against Southern alleging her rights were violated over her termination. In October of last year, a federal court judge dismissed Jackson's federal lawsuit against Southern. She appealed to the fifth circuit, which upheld the lower court's ruling.

Her attorney, Joel Porter, told us this at the time.

"I don't think this is a time for John Pierre or the defendants at Southern University to celebrate," Porter said. "It will be short-lived. I'm certain of that. Don't pull out the bottles and celebrate so quickly."

But, Jackson lost her appeal to the fifth circuit shortly after that. Last week, she was dealt another blow when her state lawsuit was dismissed out of the 19th JDC.

Jackson was a tenured law professor at Southern University's Law Center when she drafted a will for a client at the Council on Aging. Jackson was a Board Member at the Council on Aging at the time, and the will Jackson drafted benefited the agency's Executive Director Tasha Clark Amar. Clark Amar and Jackson backed off of the will immediately without explanation. Jackson still serves the Council on Aging as a board member.

Jackson claimed in her lawsuit that there was a breach of contract, violations of due process, and emotional distress that she suffered as a result of her termination. In the state and federal cases, both judges have dismissed her lawsuits citing no cause of action.

Jackson's attorneys declined to comment on the dismissal of her second lawsuit.

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New State Police superintendent discusses recent controversies in his first one-on-one interview https://www.wbrz.com/news/new-state-police-superintendent-discusses-recent-controversies-in-his-first-one-on-one-interview/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/new-state-police-superintendent-discusses-recent-controversies-in-his-first-one-on-one-interview/ The Investigative Unit Mon, 16 Nov 2020 4:09:01 PM Chris Nakamoto New State Police superintendent discusses recent controversies in his first one-on-one interview

BATON ROUGE - In his first one-on-one interview, Colonel Lamar Davis talked about a number of controversies that have plagued the state's premier law enforcement agency and culminated in the abrupt retirement of his predecessor, Kevin Reeves.

Davis said his biggest hurdle right now will be trying to rebuild trust.

"There's a lot of distrust from the community and internally," Davis said. " I want to build that trust, and trust who we are and that we are doing the right thing. That's my challenge."

Following controversy after controversy exposed this summer, Reeves refused to discuss any of them with the public before he retired. Under Reeves' watch the WBRZ Investigative Unit exposed August McKay didn't receive any discipline after it was discovered he used the n-word in a phone call to his co-worker. State Police covered that up by initially denying our public request for documents. They finally released them, and it was discovered McKay wasn't disciplined.

"It's very concerning, and what's more concerning is the process that we have in place," Davis said. "Immediately coming into office, one of the things I want to look at is the processes, look at situations like that. We need to look at the entire process, and there were gaps in that process that failed."

Doug Cain is Davis' Chief of Staff. Sources have told WBRZ that Cain was deeply rooted in the past administration, and multiple sources have said that as long as he's around real changes won't happen. Cain is also the one who called WBRZ trying to shut down the August McKay story.

"I understand that, but I've been in every administration that he's been in," Davis said. "I've done my job objectively and I've done it without any issues. I expect the same of Doug. He is my Chief of Staff, and he's going to work as I expect him to."

WBRZ also asked Colonel Davis if he intended to discipline the troopers who were aware that Ronald Greene was beaten to death but did nothing. That shocking case came to light within weeks of the August McKay matter and showed that State Police covered up Greene's 2019 death.

A leaked audio recording from Trooper Chris Hollingsworth surfaced where Hollingsworth admitted to beating Greene before he "went limp." Hollingsworth was served intent to terminate papers after public outcry some 16 months after Greene's death and died in a single-vehicle crash hours later. Many have called his death a suicide.

"That is being handled by the FBI," Davis said. "They will make all statements moving forward."

In addition to the Greene matter, Davis also weighed in on Kaleb Reeves, the son of former Colonel Kevin Reeves, killing two people in what sources called an at-fault crash while he was responding to a call. Kaleb Reeves has not been ticketed.

"What I'm doing is reviewing those cases and the processes," Davis said. "What I want people to understand is this is not something that we take lightly. As I review those cases, I'll make the proper determinations."

Davis said he's excited about restoring the public's trust, as he plans to make changes at State Police. He said he knows that he is the right man for the job.

"As we move forward, what we want to think about, what we try to accomplish - it starts with me and ends with me," Davis said. "That's how I reassure them by every action, every interaction and every communication."

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WBRZ attorneys demand transparency from State Police after release of redacted records https://www.wbrz.com/news/wbrz-attorneys-demand-transparency-from-state-police-after-release-of-redacted-records/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/wbrz-attorneys-demand-transparency-from-state-police-after-release-of-redacted-records/ The Investigative Unit Thu, 12 Nov 2020 4:37:59 PM Chris Nakamoto WBRZ attorneys demand transparency from State Police after release of redacted records

BATON ROUGE- Attorneys representing WBRZ-TV are demanding transparency from Louisiana State Police one day after the WBRZ Investigative Unit published a story about records State Police released-- some of them totally unreadable and blacked out.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit requested emails from top LSP brass tied to Trooper August McKay's use of the n-word. In August, State Police said it would take about 30 days to compile. Instead, it took two months, and when the records were finally made available for viewing many of them were black pages. Typically, public entities may redact private identifying information or words but not entire pages.

"Certainly used to seeing individual elements of a page redacted, social security numbers things like that," WBRZ attorney Chase Tettleton said. "To see entire pages redacted that's shocking, almost outrageous."

Trooper August McKay was exposed by WBRZ in September after he flippantly used the n-word. His Apple watch mistakenly called an African-American co-worker is the excuse McKay gave when he was interviewed. He claimed he was not racist and was referring to his "deadbeat cousin" who had bill collectors after him.

WBRZ exposed that State Police failed to discipline McKay for the use of the slur because a letter of reprimand was drafted but not delivered to McKay.

"There's something going on here, a lack of transparency," Tettleton said. "It certainly looks like in this instance that State Police is not holding true to their obligation to the public records laws."

Tettleton said there are specific situations when records can be redacted, like if something is under a criminal investigation. The matter involving McKay never was investigated criminally.

"There are exceptions to the public records law," Tettleton said. "There are certain classes of documents classes of information that are not subject to disclosure. Embarrassing information, professionally harmful information, those are not exempted items of public records."

Some of the emails that were turned over to WBRZ show questions we asked about the McKay situation. A number of high ranking members of State Police passed the email around and responded to it but they redacted what they were saying.

"In other states we call these sunshine laws," Tettleton said. "The idea being that sunshine is the best antiseptic, openness and transparency roots out any corruption in government. So that's why public records are fundamentally accessible across the country and fundamentally accessible here."

WBRZ asked State Police for a response about why the records were redacted at 10:12 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 11. They got back to us at 5 p.m. on Nov. 12, saying some records were redacted due to their "deliberative process." We asked them to explain what that is.

State Police also said that other pages were redacted because they were not part of our request. They did not explain why the documents were placed in the file if they were not part of what we requested.

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Nursing home with history of alleged neglect catches attention of state lawmakers https://www.wbrz.com/news/nursing-home-with-history-of-alleged-neglect-catches-attention-of-state-lawmakers/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/nursing-home-with-history-of-alleged-neglect-catches-attention-of-state-lawmakers/ The Investigative Unit Mon, 9 Nov 2020 4:08:22 PM Chris Nakamoto Nursing home with history of alleged neglect catches attention of state lawmakers

NEW ROADS - Cases of neglect at a nursing home in the heart of New Roads caused state lawmakers to meet with the families of residents there Monday.

Andre Monceret pulled his mother out of the home last week after documenting repeated incidents of problems. Monceret said his mother who has dementia was not properly cared for. He said he has evidence of the following: his mom sitting in a soiled diaper for more than six hours, fingernails filled with grime, toenails that have not been trimmed in months, and teeth that have not been brushed for weeks.

"I pulled her out of this home the other day, her fingernails were nasty like she was digging in the dirt with grime and feces," Monceret said.

He said his mom has always been well kept and to see her like that was beyond devastating.

His frustration caught the attention of parish leaders who have helped facilitate meetings with state lawmakers.

"From a change perspective, being in the legislature formally, I've invited our legislators that represent this area to sit with some of the families and learn what standards are in place but what are opportunities to change some things," Pointe Coupee Parish President Major Thibaut said.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit found the facility has a history of problems. According to inspection reports available for public viewing, Pointe Coupee Healthcare was cited 13 times over the past three years. The facility was fined in August 2019, $36,000 for failing to timely report suspected abuse and neglect. In 2018, the home was also cited for violating federal standards protecting residents from the spread of infections.

In May there were multiple deaths reported and skyrocketing numbers of COVID-19.

Thibaut said with the recent cases of neglect and the lack of family members being able to routinely check in on their loved ones, he reached out to the facility which promised that changes were coming.

"We're going to make changes and are investigating when that was and when it took place. And we will put procedures in place to make sure we stay current on everything," Thibaut recalled the administrators telling him.

We reached out to Pointe Coupee Healthcare for a comment on this story. A public relations firm out of New Orleans released the following statement:

“We are grateful to the family members of the residents involved for bringing these issues to light. We share your concerns and are conducting an internal investigation to determine what occurred and how it can be addressed.

Rest assured that we will work diligently to correct these issues and determine the best path forward. 

Our top priority is making sure that our residents are receiving the treatment and care they deserve. This includes a customized care plan for each resident, protocol for communicating any issues to families and education for our staff on how to properly maintain residents’ hygiene. 

While we are constantly working to ensure that all of these policies are enforced, we encourage residents and resident families to reach out to us with any issues they might have so they can be researched and handled properly.”

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Son of State Police chief of staff placed on leave for excessive force https://www.wbrz.com/news/son-of-state-police-chief-of-staff-placed-on-leave-for-excessive-force/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/son-of-state-police-chief-of-staff-placed-on-leave-for-excessive-force/ The Investigative Unit Wed, 28 Oct 2020 4:29:55 PM Chris Nakamoto Son of State Police chief of staff placed on leave for excessive force

BATON ROUGE - State police have refused to answer questions about why Trooper Jacob Brown was placed on leave last week in what our sources described as a 2019 excessive force incident.

Jacob is the son of Bob Brown, the Assistant Superintendent and Chief of Staff, according to our sources.

Why that incident is coming up now, and what it involves are questions that Louisiana State Police have refused to answer. That information is revealed the same week LSP Superintendent Kevin Reeves announced his retirement. Troopers and sources within State Police said the news came as a surprise and many found out from the media.

Governor John Bel Edwards said that Reeves' retirement had been planned since last year. He said in a news conference Tuesday that he did not ask Reeves to retire.

Reeves' retirement comes on the heels of numerous controversies that have unfolded at the agency. All of them have occurred under Reeves' watch and Reeves has avoided talking about any of them.

Wednesday, the Legislative Black Caucus said it wants answers and accountability over what has been widely reported.

"We're going to get the answers," State Representative Edmond Jordan said. "We are going to continue to probe and dig. Just because Colonel Kevin Reeves leaves doesn't mean we are going to stop with that."

Some of the concerns that Reeves has refused to answer questions about include: August McKay not being disciplined after calling his colleague the n-word, Ronald Greene being beaten by Trooper Chris Hollingsworth, Trooper Kasha Domingue's indictment, his son Trooper Kaleb Reeves' rear-end crash that he caused and led to the deaths of two people.

As Reeves leaves Friday, payroll records obtained by WBRZ show for the past two years he's been earning close to $180,000. He'll retire with a lifetime pension with a figure very close to that.

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State police head Kevin Reeves retiring in wake of controversies at LSP https://www.wbrz.com/news/state-police-head-kevin-reeves-retiring-in-wake-of-controversies-at-lsp/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/state-police-head-kevin-reeves-retiring-in-wake-of-controversies-at-lsp/ The Investigative Unit Tue, 27 Oct 2020 1:40:15 PM WBRZ Staff State police head Kevin Reeves retiring in wake of controversies at LSP

BATON ROUGE - Governor Edwards announced Tuesday that Louisiana State Police Superintendent Kevin Reeves is retiring from LSP effective Friday.

The announcement comes after the agency came under fire for several controversies  exposed by the Investigative Unit in recent months. Earlier this month, the NAACP called for Reeves' resignation over two separate incidents at State Police.

First, it was learned that a state trooper was caught calling a co-worker a "f****** n*****" but was never disciplined. Then an investigation was opened into the death of a Black man who died after a 2019 chase with state troopers. Audio from one of the trooper's recording devices, obtained more than a year later, caught the officer saying he " beat the ever living f*** out of him."

The governor said Tuesday he expects a replacement will be named in the coming days and said he did not ask for Reeves to retire.

Click here for Reeve's retirement statement from attorneys representing the Greene family.

Tuesday, we also learned that Jacob Brown was placed on leave for excessive force in 2019. Brown is the son of Bob Brown, the Colonel's right hand man. State Police have refused to answer questions about why he was placed on leave last week, when the incident occurred last year. The WBRZ Investigative Unit requested an interview with Reeves. We never heard back.

You can read the full announcement from the governor's office below.

Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the retirement of Col. Kevin Reeves from the Louisiana State Police, after 30 years of service. Reeves has been planning his retirement since last year and it will be effective on Friday, October 31. A replacement will be named in the coming days.

“I am deeply grateful to Col. Reeves for his decades of dedicated service as the consummate law enforcement professional committed to serving and protecting the people of Louisiana. Public safety has always been his highest priority,” Gov. Edwards said. “I have appreciated his partnership and counsel for the past several years as Superintendent, especially as Louisiana has navigated cybersecurity incidents, natural disasters, peaceful protests and the COVID pandemic. Throughout his career with Louisiana State Police, from his early time on motorcycle patrols to his promotion to Superintendent, Col. Reeves has been a model of professionalism. His experience made him a steady and strong leader in trying times, and I personally thank him and, on behalf of the state of Louisiana, I wish him and his family well in his much-deserved retirement.”

“It has truly been an honor to serve as Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Public Safety,” Col. Reeves said. “I am forever grateful to Governor Edwards for having the faith and confidence in me and, more importantly, for the support he provides the men and women of the Louisiana State Police. As humbling as this opportunity has been, my greatest professional accomplishment remains the title of Trooper, a title I have the honor of sharing with the over 1,100 men and women who wear our badge. Throughout my career, I have advocated for the men and women of the Louisiana State Police and the heroic work they do each and every day. They will always be family. As I reflect on my career, one thing is for certain, none of this would have been possible without the unwavering support of my family and I look forward to heading back to north Louisiana and spending more time with them.”

Reeves was appointed the 25th Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police in March 2017. Reeves’ career with LSP started in 1990 as a trooper on motorcycle patrols for Troop A in Baton Rouge. His career in the State Police brought him to Troop F in Monroe in 1993, where he served as a squad leader for the mobile field force and as a case agent and undercover agent on many narcotics investigations and operations for the Bureau of Investigations. In 2008, he was promoted to Troop Commander of Troop F before assuming the role of Command Inspector of Patrol Operations and Commander of Statewide Mobile Field Force Team in 2013.

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Officer speaks out after son killed in Baton Rouge shooting spree: 'He took an angel from Earth' https://www.wbrz.com/news/officer-speaks-out-after-son-killed-in-baton-rouge-shooting-spree-he-took-an-angel-from-earth-/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/officer-speaks-out-after-son-killed-in-baton-rouge-shooting-spree-he-took-an-angel-from-earth-/ The Investigative Unit Mon, 19 Oct 2020 4:33:44 PM Chris Nakamoto Officer speaks out after son killed in Baton Rouge shooting spree: 'He took an angel from Earth'

BATON ROUGE- The father of a toddler who was gunned down inside a Baton Rouge home last week said evil came to his son's house Thursday night.

Vince Hutchinson Jr. is a New Roads Police Officer who had just finished his shift and spent time with his son Thursday. Azariah Christien Thomas, 2, was brought back to his mother's house, according to Hutchinson. Within two hours, he was dead after police said a man sprayed bullets into the house striking Thomas.

"He really took an angel from this earth," Hutchinson said. "Christien was loved by many and showed love to many."

Hutchinson recalled his son as a fun-loving toddler who was advanced for his age. The precocious child loved hanging out with family, and the fun times were captured on home videos recorded on their cell phones.

"Just very smart, he was an angel in our midst," Hutchinson said. "We didn't even know. He was always happy and never forgot a face."

Hutchinson recalled getting a phone call to rush to the hospital Thursday night. His son had been shot after being inside the home that police said Kendrick Myles opened fire on.

"My son was in the house," Hutchinson said. "He was in the house when he was shot. It was not a drive-by shooting. Myles got out and opened fire."

Hutchinson said he did not know Myles, but he did know people in his son's mother's house.

"This is just evil," Hutchinson said. "Nothing else to say, plain evil."

Kendrick Myles is currently being held without bond in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. His alleged reign of terror spanned four different locations Thursday evening and led to the following: a 2-year-old killed, two adults shot, another child kidnapped, and a standoff with police.

The Hutchinson family said an account has been set up to help pay for funeral and medical expenses. They said they are indebted to medical staff at Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital for their lifesaving efforts to help Azariah. Any leftover money will be donated to the hospital, according to the Hutchinsons.

Donations can be made to:

The Azariah Christien Thomas Benefit Fund

Funeral services for Azariah will be held Saturday, October 24 at Hall Davis Funeral Home in Baton Rouge at 1 p.m.

Services will be livestreamed here.

Visitation will be at the funeral home on Friday, October 23 from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m., and Saturday, October 24 from 12 noon until 1 p.m.

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Hammond city council plans to hire Baton Rouge firm to investigate 2017 beating incident https://www.wbrz.com/news/hammond-city-council-plans-to-hire-baton-rouge-firm-to-investigate-2017-beating-incident/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/hammond-city-council-plans-to-hire-baton-rouge-firm-to-investigate-2017-beating-incident/ The Investigative Unit Tue, 13 Oct 2020 5:55:49 PM Chris Nakamoto Hammond city council plans to hire Baton Rouge firm to investigate 2017 beating incident

HAMMOND - The Hammond City Council is planning to secure a Baton Rouge law firm regarding the 2017 police booking room video that has made national news.

In 2017, Kentdrick Ratliff was beaten, tased and kicked inside the booking room after he reached for a bottle of pills. One officer was disciplined for the kick to his groin, but that was overturned by the Civil Service Board. Another officer seen beating him is Edwin Bergeron, was promoted to police chief following the booking room beating.

An independent use of force consultant called Bergeron's actions "borderline criminal and excessive force."

Council members said at the time of Bergeron's appointment they were not told about the facts of the incident. Councilman Devon Wells says that contrary to what council members claim the mayor told the public about an investigation being done on the chief, there was no investigation.

"The mayor actually lied to us, flat-out lied," Wells said.

At a heated council meeting last month, the council voted to ask for an independent investigation into the beating and the cover-up.

Mayor Pete Panepinto has said the following in the past.

"We do investigations," Panepinto said. "We are transparent. We want to be transparent."

But, transparency was lacking involving the 2017 incident. Ratliff's attorney, Ravi Shah, said he had requested the video but was never given copies of it. In fact, he was told no such video existed.

In covering the tumultuous events in Hammond after the release of the video by the WBRZ Investigative Unit this summer, our crews have been accosted multiple times by the same resident there, pushed and stalked. Sources said he's close to the current administration.

With fallout ongoing, many are hoping the investigation will finally yield the truth.

The FBI is investigating this matter. Calls to Mayor Pete Panepinto were not returned.

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