State police: Video shows necessary, proper force - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

State police: Video shows necessary, proper force

Updated:
UPDATE: FOX 8 received this brief statement from New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu Wednesday afternoon, in response to the LSP report:

"Based on what I saw on the video tape, the State Police did not handle that incident in the right way. Based on what I have seen, I believe it was wrong."

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KEVIN McGILL
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - State troopers in plain clothes who were seen on video roughly handling two black teenagers in the French Quarter during the Mardi Gras weekend acted with legal, reasonable and necessary force, the commander of state police said Wednesday, summarizing the results of an internal investigation.

Col. Mike Edmonson said the teens had tried to run away as troopers approached to ask them about possible curfew violations. "Once the two attempted to flee, the officers were entitled to restrain them, use reasonable force to get their hands in plain view and search them for weapons," Edmonson told reporters.

Attorneys for teenagers Ferdinand Hunt and Sidney Newman - who, it turned out later, were of age to be on the street - quickly disputed the state police findings and said they look forward to a federal investigation. Edmonson said a draft of the state police report has been turned over to the FBI.

Attorneys Robert McDuff and Rachel Connor said in a statement that Edmonson  "never explains why the one of the officers didn't simply approach the young men and politely ask their age rather than swarming them in mass, attacking them, whirling Sidney around, throwing him to the sidewalk, and sitting on top of him."

The blurry surveillance video from a camera on a French Quarter street shows a group of white men approaching two young black men. One of the two is standing, the other is sitting and neither appears to be causing any type of disturbance.

Within seconds, they are being restrained by more than half a dozen people. Officers take one forcibly to the ground.

Edmonson said he found the video, which contained no audio, unsettling when he first saw it. However, he told reporters Wednesday that a close review of the video, along with interviews with witnesses and the officers involved, indicated the troopers acted properly.

Some police critics have questioned whether race was a factor in the way the teens were approached and handled. Edmonson said emphatically that it was not. "That doesn't happen and that will not happen under my watch," he said.

Edmonson said the troopers were aiding city police in February, helping keep order during the city's final, often raucous Carnival weekend. The troopers were tasked with seeking out illegal concealed weapons and possible curfew violators. They had approached Hunt and Newman moments after an illegal gun had been seized by other officers nearby.

Edmonson said troopers identified themselves as police before both young men tried to flee. That prompted the troopers to grab and restrain them.

The incident, recorded on the night of Feb. 10, lasted 58 seconds, Edmonson said. State police said seven troopers and one city police officer are believed to have been directly involved and other troopers were on the scene.

It ended after the mother of one of the teens, a uniformed police officer, intervened and a supervisor told the officers to "disengage from Hunt and Newman and leave the scene," Edmonson said in a letter to the FBI, released Wednesday.

"During that time neither of the subjects was struck or kicked, no officers drew or displayed weapons or other control devices, and in our opinion the techniques utilized were proper, reasonable and proportionate to the resistance offered," the letter said. Edmonson said neither of the teens was injured except for a minor scrape on Hunt's hand.

He said a review of statements the two gave city police played a part in the state police investigation, but neither of the teens submitted to a state police interview. Edmonson said Hunt's mother, police officer Verna Hunt, also refused to submit to an interview.

Edmonson plans to attend a City Council panel meeting on the video Monday and a state legislative hearing Tuesday. He also has asked New Orleans police chief Ronal Serpas to review Verna Hunt's conduct in the incident.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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