Body camera footage show a Louisiana state trooper beating a black motorist with a flashlight over and over again, all over a traffic stop for "improper lane usage." The video was kept secret for years.
It's the second recent violent police encounter in Louisiana in which footage was kept concealed but was subsequently acquired and exposed by the Associated Press.
In this incident, Aaron Larry Bowman was pulled over by state troopers in May 2019 in the city of Monroe. The footage shows State Trooper Jacob Brown arriving on the scene, striding over to Bowman, who is already out of his car and on the pavement, and immediately beating him 18 times with a flashlight as Bowman screams that he's not resisting. Bowman was left with a broken jaw, broken wrist, three broken ribs, and head gash that required staples to close.
According to the Associated Press, Brown defended the beating as "pain compliance." Brown has since resigned from the force, and he faces charges of second-degree battery and malfeasance for the incident. The A.P. also notes that Brown has logged 23 use-of-force incidents since 2015. He faces additional charges in two other excessive force cases and apparently bragged about his violent behavior with other troopers.
That's all horrible enough, but there's also the matter of how Louisiana officials have been burying these incidents. The state police didn't even investigate the incident until Bowman filed a civil lawsuit almost two years later. The state police now say that Brown failed to report the use of force and deliberately mislabeled his body-camera footage. Bowman's defense attorney says he was told there was no body-camera video of the encounter.
This incident with Bowman took place just three weeks after a deadly encounter between Louisiana troopers and another black driver, Ronald Greene. We know what happened with Greene primarily because the Associated Press somehow got a copy of the body-camera footage and released it. In that incident, Greene was brutalized by troopers, tazed, and dragged after a short car chase that ended with a minor crash. He died. Troopers initially told his family that he was killed in the crash following the chase, deliberately concealing the subsequent beating.
The footage of Greene's assault wasn't released until May. As with Bowman, the state police did not begin their own investigation until the family, realizing that the case didn't add up, filed a lawsuit in 2020.
The Justice Department is now investigating these incidents, and the A.P. reports that federal prosecutors are trying to determine what role, if any, leaders of the Louisiana State Police played in obstructing the truth. After all, Brown was not the only trooper on the scene, and official investigations into the troopers' conduct didn't begin until after civil lawsuits were filed. Sources told the A.P. earlier in August that head of the Louisiana State Police, Col. Lamar Davis, and his chief of staff attempted to pressure prosecutors not to charge any officers for Greene's death back in 2019.
All of this serves as an important reminder: Body cameras cannot help to hold police accountable when cops can find ways to conceal the footage.