NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The attorney representing a woman who an NOPD commander threw to the ground as he tried to break up a fight says his client was wrongfully arrested and will be exonerated.
New Orleans Police say officers were trying to break up a fight between Torian Lewis and Taylor Bruce in the French Quarter over the weekend when video shows Eighth District Commander Octavio Baldassaro throw 21-year-old Bruce to the ground.
“We want to make sure we get to the bottom of this, what this officer was thinking and why my client was picked out to be slammed violently to the ground, violently to the ground, to someone who should be trained more than the other officers because he’s a commander,” said Bruce’s attorney, Robert Ferrier.
Ferrier says his client has never been arrested before and is about to graduate from nursing school. Ferrier adds they have filed an official complaint with the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau against Baldassaro for excessive force.
“I think the video absolutely speaks for itself. Again, this young lady has never been arrested, this young lady is not a fighter, this young lady is a nursing student who provides value to the community. Again, once all the evidence comes out and all the witnesses come out - and yes, we do have witnesses - I believe my client will be completely exonerated,” Ferrier said.
The NOPD’S Force Investigation Team is conducting an investigation into the incident and NOPD Chief Shaun Ferguson has also launched a formal disciplinary probe. The Office of the Independent Police Monitor is looking into it, as well.
“If you look at the video a couple more times, there are many facts that are established in that video - that she’s a combatant and a violent encounter. Commander Baldassaro had every right and responsibility and obligation to intervene in that fight. He used the proper amount of force and he used it within NOPD policy and state law,” said Baldassaro’s attorney, Eric Hessler.
Hessler says the commander did what he was supposed to when the women ignored several verbal commands to stop fighting.
“It’s quite clear she had no indication or inclination to stop that fight. She had to be physically removed, and it had to be some use of force. Unfortunately, that force caused her to fall to the ground. It wasn’t his intention to throw her to the ground, but that was just a collateral event, and then you can see her get back up and swing at him and he had to re-engage her,” said Hessler.
Commander Baldassaro remains on the job. As for Bruce, she now faces charges of disturbing the peace, resisting an officer, battery of a police officer and tampering.
Bruce’s attorney says his client was injured during the incident but he wouldn’t say what those injuries are because the case is ongoing.