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Four BRPD 'Street Crimes' officers indicted in 2020 abuse case

2 weeks 3 days 2 hours ago Tuesday, June 25 2024 Jun 25, 2024 June 25, 2024 10:52 PM June 25, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE — Four Baton Rouge police officers who worked in the now-defunct "Street Crimes" unit were indicted Tuesday on charges linked to the alleged abuse of a person in 2020. 

The grand jury indicted BRPD officers Doug Chutz Jr., Martele Jackson, Troy Lawrence Sr., and Todd Thomas. It decided against charges for officer Jesse Barcelona.

The investigation into the group started in Aug. 2023 when a whistleblower came forward, exposing what happened the night of Sept. 28, 2020. According to arrest paperwork filed in Sept. 2023, the Street Crimes unit brought a suspect to the First District Precinct on Plank Road to be strip searched in the bathroom, including a body cavity search. Documents said the suspect was stripped naked and beaten for not complying. 

An officer who witnessed the altercation said the suspect started screaming and more people walked into the bathroom. One of the officers pulled out his Taser and his body-worn camera was immediately activated. The footage was watched back on a cellphone. Street Crimes Commander Troy Lawrence Sr. tasked one of the other men with stealing the camera and fabricating a document saying it had been lost. 

Chutz, Lawrence, Thomas and Barcelona were arrested and placed on administrative leave from the BRPD. An arrest warrant was filed for Martele Jackson after the indictments announced. 

The following charges were handed down Tuesday: 

-Troy Lawrence Sr.: four counts malfeasance in office, one count of criminal conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice
-Todd Thomas: three counts malfeasance in office, one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of criminal conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice 
-Doug Chutz: two counts malfeasance in office, one count of obstruction of justice, one count of criminal conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice 
-Martele Jackson: one count malfeasance in office

According to District Attorney Hillar Moore, Thomas could face 25 years in prison, Lawrence 22 and a half, Chutz 17 and a half, and Jackson could face 10 years if they are convicted on each charge and given the maximum sentence. 

Moore thanked the grand jury members for doing a thorough job and said he was glad to have the matter handled. He emphasized that the charges are not representative of the department as a whole. 

"This is not an indictment on the Baton Rouge Police Department," Moore said. "This is a completely isolated incident that happened four years ago."

In a statement, BRPD Chief TJ Morse shared the same sentiments about his department.

"I want our community to know that this Department is filled with Law Enforcement Professionals that are doing great work around the clock. I ask that your view of those exemplary men and women is not tarnished by the alleged isolated and unacceptable actions of a few."

Chief Morse included that all five officers are still subject to internal affairs investigations. Whenever those investigations conclude, results will be released to the public. 

After the indictment announcement, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome released a statement about the grand jury's decision.

Today marks a significant development in our ongoing pursuit of justice and accountability within the Baton Rouge Police Department. The grand jury indictments of the officers following their arrests last fall underscores our unwavering commitment to uphold the principles of justice and integrity in our community.

These indictments reaffirm our dedication to police reform and accountability. The indictments should not reflect on the vast majority of Baton Rouge Police officers who are committed to professionalism.

Thank you to District Attorney Hillar Moore for his office’s thorough work in securing today’s outcome. We remain focused on ensuring justice and building trust throughout our community.

The Street Crimes unit was dismantled in August 2023 after reports about the "BRAVE Cave," which sits adjacent to the First District Precinct. It was formally known as the Street Crimes Processing Unit, but multiple people have come forward about abuse at the hands of officers in the makeshift interrogation warehouse. 

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