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BRPD releases bodycam footage of teen's arrest

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BATON ROUGE - Baton Rouge Police released a handful of video clips late Tuesday evening showing various angles of the arrest of a 17-year-old at the end of a police chase last week.

CLICK HERE to watch the WBRZ Investigative Unit report, showing all the video angles

Half of the videos are from three officers involved and a fourth video is of the police cruiser dashcam of the part of the 50-minute police chase that ended in the arrest of two people: The driver of the fleeing vehicle and the teenager, who was charged but released to his parents’ custody and not booked into jail.

Two police officers involved in the arrests are on administrative leave while the department investigates how and where one officer placed his knee on the teenager while the teen was on the ground being handcuffed.

Video posted first on social media after the arrest prompting the internal investigation showed an officer’s knee in a questionable position - somewhere near the teen’s neck.  

The tactic of holding a subject down by placing a knee on their neck is banned in the department and has become a flashpoint of aggressive policing in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minnesota earlier this year.

The tactic is banned in the Baton Rouge Police Department, but officers are allowed to hold a suspect down by placing a knee on the suspect’s back.

The body camera videos released by police Tuesday don’t capture a sure answer as to where the officer had his knee.

Watch the attached videos to see the video released by police.  The story continues after the videos, separated by video feed, below.

**WARNING: The following videos include graphic language that some may find offensive

Dash Camera Footage

Video 1:

Video 2:

Video 3:

Body Camera Video Footage

Video 1:

Video 2:

Video 3:

In the body camera of the officer who held the teen down, the camera does not capture how the officer uses the tactic.  It shows the officer with the teenager on the ground and being handcuffed.  The knee placement is out of view.

The body cameras of the other two officers involved in the arrest show varying points of the other officer’s knee on the teenager, but it’s hard to get a sure view of where the knee is placed.

Police did not reveal why two of the three officers involved are on administrative leave, or how it was determined which officers were placed on leave.

In a news conference Monday about the situation, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul promised transparency and asked for patience as the internal investigation unfolds.

Police released the video clips around 6 p.m. Tuesday.

In the clips, the teenager is heard telling officers he is asthmatic, to which one responds “I don’t give a damn.”  It’s not clear which officer responded.

Also Monday, the chief met with the teenager’s family who said they were frustrated and wanted the officers involved fired but were, for now, trusting the process.

“I want the police officers to be held accountable.  'Cause it could be another kid, I'm just blessed that my son is here,” the teen’s mother said  When asked if she was satisfied following her meeting with the chief, she said at the time: “Yes, as far as the transparency, but we'll see as the investigation is further done.” 

The arrests came at the end of a police chase near the intersection of North Acadian and Bogan Walk.  The driver, Kimani Jhonte Smith, 22, was charged with aggravated flight from an officer, aggravated criminal damage to property, possession of drugs, contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile and a seatbelt violation.

The teenager was charged with drug possession, no seatbelt, and as a principal to charges of aggravated flight and aggravated criminal damage to property.

During the pursuit, Smith crashed into a vehicle by accident, authorities said, and police reported they saw the two smoking what appeared to be a marijuana "blunt." 

Police sought approval from juvenile court judges since the case involved someone under 18, which is why the video was released Tuesday, a day after the department announced the investigation, the agency said.

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Brome supported the investigation by the department: "In the past few days, there has been an expedited review and the investigatory process has started," the mayor said in a statement.  

"We are prepared to ensure transparency and the release of that footage for public consumption," the mayor said.  She continued, "I ask that the community allow us to take the proper steps necessary to investigate and swiftly determine the outcome."

Community activist Gary Chambers first posted the video on Facebook showing the arrest.   He said the officers involved should be fired: "The officer kneeling on [the teen's] neck [need] to be identified and fired immediately, we don’t need to investigate what we can see on tape. Also the officers standing and not stopping this action need disciplinary action as well."

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