BRPD Chief: Officer’s knee was on teen’s back, not his neck

BRPD Chief: Officer’s knee was on teen’s back, not his neck
BRPD body camera footage (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) Chief Murphy Paul says two officers involved in the July 6 detaining of a 17-year-old juvenile suspect that circulated on social media have been placed on administrative leave and the department is currently conducting an internal investigation into the matter.

Social media posts about the incident claimed a BRPD officer placed his knee on the neck of a juvenile suspect.

During a news conference Monday, July 13, Paul showed a still picture from the scene that he says shows the officer’s knee on the teen’s back, not his neck.

RELATED: BRPD releases videos of 24-second arrest of teen

The incident happened on July 6 following a 50-minute police pursuit, Paul said. An internal affairs investigation was launched by the police department on July 9.

Paul confirmed that the teenager detained in the social media video was not the driver of the vehicle involved in the police pursuit.

A department spokesman told WAFB late Monday afternoon the incident all started because of an apparent seatbelt violation.

Investigators say they have charged the driver of the vehicle involved in the pursuit, Kimani Smith, 22, of Baton Rouge, has been charged with a seatbelt violation, aggravated flight from an officer, aggravated criminal damage to property, possession of schedule 1 drugs, and contributing the delinquency of a juvenile.

Authorities say the 17-year-old suspect, who was arrested and released to the custody of his parents the same day, has been charged with principal to aggravated flight from an officer, criminal damage to property, possession of schedule 1 drugs, and no seatbelt.

This photo circulating on social media shows a teenager as he exited a vehicle after a July 6 traffic pursuit in Baton Rouge. The teenager’s attorney says this shows his client was surrendering and no amount of force should have been needed to take the teen into custody.

“Our client, her son, was a passenger. He doesn’t control the car.. he doesn’t drive it, on his knees, in a submissive position and yet he was handled as if he was a threat,” said Haley. “When you are on your knees with your hands up, you don’t get much more submissive than that. Why was he handled in such a rough manner? He was not armed. He was not posing a threat to anyone for him to be treated that way.”

Paul said the department cannot legally release the identity of the 17-year-old suspect because he is considered a juvenile under Louisiana law.

BRPD deputy chief, Myron Daniels, told reporters an officer is allowed to place a knee on the back of a suspect but not on the neck. He echoed the chief’s confirmation that the policy is taught in BRPD training.

“At no point was the juvenile’s air-restricted in any way but yes, our policy and training does allow to place a knee, particularly one, on a subject at a time.”

The chief said he will continue to push for transparency in the case given the seriousness of the incident.

“People across the country are watching how we handle this incident. Baton Rouge, we’ve been here before. Then, as it will be now, I will stand for transparency and accountability,” the chief said.

The chief said a BRPD officer is allowed to put a knee on the back of a suspect. He says that the approved technique is taught to officers in the BRPD Police Academy.

Paul said officers are not allowed to place their knee on a person’s neck.

The police chief told reporters he had met with the family of the teen earlier Monday and showed them police bodycam footage from the incident.

The Baton Rouge Police Department released the footage to the public Tuesday, July 14.

“In the interest of continuing an effort of transparency with the citizens of Baton Rouge, the Baton Rouge Police Department is committed to making sure citizens are thoroughly informed. I am aware of a video circulating on social media of an incident that occurred on Monday, July 6, 2020. As Police Chief it is incumbent upon me to make sure every interaction between the public and members of the Baton Rouge Police Department is professional according to departmental guidelines,” Chief Murphy Paul says.

I have been in communication with Chief Murphy Paul about a police encounter that was brought to my attention involving...

Posted by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome on Sunday, July 12, 2020

Local civil rights activist Gary Chambers posted a video believed to be of the incident.

This is 17 year old Dillon Cannon on the ground with a Baton Rouge police officers knee in his neck. Let me begin by saying any cop that puts their knee in the neck of a citizen they are attempting to detain in America needs to be fired immediately. No exceptions. No excuses. It can’t be allowed under any circumstances. Cops are trained and this is trained behavior clearly because it’s happening every where. Dillon and his cousin were being pulled over for a simple traffic violation according to his family. I spoke with his mother this morning. She was on the phone with him and encouraged them to keep driving to a more populated area before they let the cops stop them. Based on the information I’ve been given Police apparently took this as them fleeing. It was a slow speed chase, that was really just two young black men taking instructions from their loved ones. His mother said she got him to get off the phone with her and put the phone on the seat and get out. He was not resisting, yet he ended up with a knee in his neck. To make matters worse, other Black cops are there and no one says get your knee off his neck. They should get disciplinary Action also. It doesn’t matter if they had him there for 2 seconds, it’s unacceptable and has caused too many deaths. A cop doing this after George Floyd knows exactly what they are doing. Please take a minute of your time and email Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and the Chief of the Baton Rouge Police Murphy Paul and ask for the body cam footage to be released. The officer kneeling on Dillon’s neck 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. When we join together we can get results. We can’t accept unacceptable behavior from cops in this climate. Mayor Broome and Chief Paul have been committed in action to reforming the Baton Rouge Police Department, it is my hope they will continue to reform the department and rid the department of this officer. Email at Mayor@BRLA.gov and mjpaul@BRLA.gov Thanks to Byron Washington for bringing this to my attention. It takes us all to make change happen. #LetsGoHigher #KeepPushing

Posted by Gary Chambers on Sunday, July 12, 2020

“We are prepared to ensure transparency and the release of that footage for public consumption,” Mayor Broome said before Paul’s news conference Monday. “I ask that the community allow us to take the proper steps necessary to investigate and swiftly determine the outcome.”

Broome issued another statement following Paul’s comments:

I have serious concerns about the video I saw of a minor being apprehended by Baton Rouge Police Officers last week. The two officers involved in this incident have been placed on administrative leave.

The use of force policy for BRPD that the community worked with me in 2017 established a level of accountability that will be seen as we continue to review the incident involving the 17-year-old.

Chief Paul and I have long been proponents of 21st Century policing practices including proper de-escalation and conflict resolution. Both of these are paramount to ensuring strong relationships between the community and the police department.

The methods and tactics used in any BRPD encounter is something we will continuously review in a comprehensive manner.

I assure the community that transparency and accountably will be demonstrated at the highest level in this situation.”

The family and their attorney tell WAFB they are satisfied with how the department is handling the matter so far as they wait for what comes next.“Yes,” said Tenesha Cannon, the teen’s mother. “It’s been very transparent. He {the chief} is meeting with us and we’re continuing the investigation.‘”What we’re hopeful for is that after a thorough investigation, if there are at fault parties, that those parties are held to be accountable,” Haley added.

Paul said the department’s internal affairs division will determine if the officers will face any disciplinary actions.

Ron Haley, an attorney for the teenager, held a news conference outside of BRPD headquarters late Monday. Haley said his client immediately surrendered upon exiting the vehicle and no amount of force by officers should have been necessary to take his client into custody.

Photo of juvenile suspect surrendering to BRPD on July 6, 2020 following a police pursuit in Baton Rouge, La.
Photo of juvenile suspect surrendering to BRPD on July 6, 2020 following a police pursuit in Baton Rouge, La. (Source: Social Media)

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