Controversial BRPD officer ousted amid lawsuit, internal investigation into 'Brave Cave'
UPDATE: BRPD announced Thursday it was shuttering the Street Crimes unit linked to the "Brave Cave" investigation. Latest details here.
BATON ROUGE - A police officer implicated in multiple complaints that have cost the city-parish thousands of dollars has resigned amid the latest investigation into his conduct. It comes as the mayor is questioning the use of a little-known police facility known as the "Brave Cave."
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome announced Officer Troy Lawrence Jr.'s resignation — and ordered a review of the Brave Cave's use — in a statement Tuesday. In that same statement, the mayor said she was previously unaware of the facility, which is adjacent to a police substation and used to process suspects after their arrest.
BRPD addressed questions about the use of the facility Tuesday afternoon. Chief Murphy Paul said the facility had been in use for roughly two decades, though this week was the first time any of the top brass at BRPD had heard the term "Brave Cave."
"I'm very familiar with this facility, that I can honestly say thousands of suspects have been processed in over the years," Chief Deputy Myron Daniels said. "I was shocked to hear the name 'Brave Cave.'"
Daniels said he and other department leaders were shocked to learn that some officers had been using that name to refer to the facility.
Chief Paul said the building is fitted with cameras throughout and that his unaware of any blind spots in its surveillance system. However, he added that the department will cease using the facility until it gets several renovations, which will include installing an "appropriate" interview room.
The news conference comes after an attorney exposed that Lawrence and other officers took an arrestee to the facility for questioning back in January. In police video obtained by WBRZ, an officer could be heard telling fellow officers that he was bringing the suspect to the "Brave Cave."
Attorney Ryan Thompson, who's representing Jeremy Lee, alleges Lee was taken to the warehouse and interrogated.
"After a search warrant was executed at a home, he was arrested for a litany of charges. Subsequently he was taken to this place — that was unknown to me at the time — the 'Brave Cave,'" Thompson explained. "Upon entering the Brave Cave, several officers — including Troy Lawrence Jr. — took off their vests, including the body-worn camera."
While the cameras were off, Thompson alleges that Lawrence attacked Lee, initiating a "gang-style" beating from the officers. At some point, the body cameras were turned back on, showing Lee seated in a chair across from an officer inside what appeared to be a mostly empty warehouse with no obvious police markings.
"Subsequently he has broken ribs, abrasions above the eye, and looking at the video you can see he has a bump and a gash above his eye," Thompson explained.
Thompson says he was initially told the Brave Cave is a police substation where officers take suspects to "flip" them.
"When I went to the substation, it wasn't in the substation. It appeared to be some warehouse or some garage kind of removed from the substation."
Thompson says Lee spent five to eight hours inside the warehouse before an officer tried to take him to the parish jail. He said that jail staff refused to book Lee, saying he needed to go to a hospital for evaluation.
"That's where he's then diagnosed with a fractured rib. He returns to parish prison, and that's where I get involved," Thompson said.
In the statement announcing Lawrence's resignation Tuesday, Mayor Broome said she was unaware of the Brave Cave's existence prior to Lee and his attorney filing a lawsuit this week.
"In light of serious allegations related to activities at the so-called 'Brave Cave,' I've directed Chief Paul to suspend all operations at this facility pending a thorough investigation by the BRPD. Until now, I was unaware of this facility's existence. In response, I've requested Chief Paul to evaluate its use, particularly in the context of these recent claims. Furthermore, Officer Troy Lawrence, Jr. has tendered his resignation. The severity of these allegations deeply concerns me, especially given the potential impact on the trust our community places in us—a trust we've worked tirelessly to establish and maintain during my administration."
The lawsuit paints a history of excessive force complaints against Lawrence, calling him a “well connected Baton Rouge police officer who has, time and again, violently violated the constitutional rights of Baton Rouge citizens.”
Lawrence was placed on paid leave in mid-August after the department received a new complaint. Lawrence is the son of Deputy Chief Troy Lawrence Sr. and worked at BRPD for four years.
Chief Paul said the department was planning to fire Lawrence and had penned a pre-termination letter prior to his resignation.
In April, WBRZ reported that the city paid $55,000 to settle a police brutality lawsuit that named the younger Lawrence. The woman who filed the suit offered to accept a $40,000 payout if Lawrence agreed to apologize for his conduct, but city-parish attorneys instead recommended that the Metro Council approve the $55,000 settlement.
Lawrence has been implicated in at least two other cases that cost the city more than $100,000 in settlement payouts.
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