INVESTIGATIVE UNIT: Pages of redacted records highlight lack of transparency at Louisiana State Police
BATON ROUGE - Despite a three-year-old case being closed and not under criminal investigation, it took Louisiana State Police two months to make records related to that case available to the WBRZ Investigative Unit. Now, it's what was missing from those documents that has watchdogs calling for more transparency.
Trooper August McKay was first exposed by the WBRZ Investigative Unit in the beginning of September after we showed he flippantly used the n-word and received no discipline. In documents made public this week, McKay said he was talking about his "deadbeat cousin," and his Apple watch accidentally dialed his African-American colleague. McKay told his supervisors that he is not a racist, but gave no explanation as to why he was using the n-word.
His colleague notified supervisors which launched an investigation and determined McKay did use the slur. Despite recommending discipline, that never happened because Captain John Riles did not carry it out.
As the WBRZ Investigative Unit was preparing to air the story on August McKay, we submitted a public records request dated Aug. 31, 2020, to State Police asking for all emails between State Police top brass involving this incident. Those emails were made available this week, and were heavily redacted. In some instances, dozens of pages were completely blacked out.
Other instances show emails WBRZ Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto sent to top State Police officials being forwarded around, and all the responses being blacked out.
During WBRZ's preparation to air the story on McKay on Sept. 3, 2020, Major Doug Cain called Nakamoto on Aug. 19, 2020 at 1:44 p.m. asking WBRZ not to air the story. Cain was promoted to the Chief of Staff at State Police recently.
"The fact that they are emailing back and forth about how they are going to respond to your request I think raises further questions," said Rafael Goyeneche, President of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. "I believe State Police owe an explanation to the public via your station."
Because the August McKay situation involving him using the n-word was never investigated criminally, Goyeneche believes there was no reason for the heavy redactions.
"There are certain exceptions to the Louisiana Public Records Act," Goyeneche said. "One of the exceptions is a criminal investigation, an ongoing criminal investigation. This case from all that I know is not under criminal investigation."
Following WBRZ's initial story on McKay in September, things began to snowball out of control at State Police. A recording of State Trooper Chris Hollingsworth admitting to beating Ronald Greene, a Black man, was leaked out more than a year after Greene's death. Hollingsworth died in a single-vehicle crash the same night he was told that State Police intended to terminate him. Many have said that Hollingsworth's death was a suicide, however, the crash was not labeled as such.
In the midst of that mess, Trooper Kasha Domingue was indicted for shooting a man and paralyzing him in Baton Rouge. The same night as that indictment, Kevin Reeves' son, Kaleb, killed two people in an at-fault crash in the Monroe area. Kaleb Reeves was not ticketed after hitting the car in the back as he responded to a call.
Colonel Kevin Reeves abruptly resigned shortly after all of these controversies. He left without answering any questions.
Now, new Colonel Lamar Davis is left trying to right the ship. He has agreed to sit down with WBRZ next week to talk about his plans to restore integrity in the state's premier law enforcement agency.