The attorney for two Division 1 college football players who were set to play this weekend in the now-postponed LSU vs. Alabama game says his clients were unfairly targeted by Baton Rouge police officers and demanding accountability from officials.
Koy Moore, who plays for LSU and Traeshon Holden, who plays for the University of Alabama say they were held at gunpoint by Baton Rouge police officers early Sunday morning (November 8). Officers were reportedly responding to calls of a loud party at an apartment building.
According to Ryan Thompson, the attorney representing both their families, Moore and Holden are friends and the two wide receivers had left Moore’s apartment to go get food. Thompson said that Holden’s involvement in the incident has not been previously reported.
The party was on the building’s rooftop and the two football players were in a unit on the lower floors, Thompson said. When they went to their vehicle, they were approached by four white police officers with guns drawn, both students were searched and questioned about possessing firearms.
“They asked them, ‘where’s the gun, where’s the gun,’ is there any drugs,’” Thompson told BET.com. “Koy tried to inform the officers that there was no gun, that they were just going to eat. After they were searched several times -- in our opinion they were searched more than the norm – Koy informed them that they were football players and that he was going to tell Coach [Ed Orgeron].
“At that point, the interaction stopped and one of the officers made the comment…’well congratulations, good job,’“ Thompson said. He added that neither of the two students had attended the party.
Moore posted a Twitter message after the incident describing what he went through. In the post he said that he was “violated” and when he tried to record what was happening, officers snatched his phone away.
“I could have lost my life and I know for a fact nothing would have happened to the guys who did it,” Moore wrote. “As some celebrate the election of a new president, the real problem [has] not changed!!!”
Neither Moore nor Holden had ever experienced anything like the confrontation with the police officers, but Thompson said that they knew through talks with their families what to do when encountering law enforcement as young Black men.
“Speaking to both of them and their mothers,” Thompson said. “Their mothers made it clear to them that like any other Black man...as you enter puberty, begin to drive...when you’re out in public, this is what you’re supposed to do. So knowing the history of Black male interactions with law enforcement, that’s what you saw Koy and Traeshon try to navigate.”
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul released a statement last Sunday saying he was made aware of the incident and that he was beginning an internal affairs investigation. According to local newspaper The Advocate, three officers had been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.
Police body cam video was recorded during the incident, but it has not been released to the public. Gary Chambers Jr., a local activist in Baton Rouge and spokesperson for Moore’s family said that city police officials had met with Holden, Moore and his family, Thompson, LSU’s Coach Ogeron and himself for a viewing of the footage. He said Paul apologized to Moore and promised transparency. He also said Mayor Sharon Weston Broome has also been involved in the conversation.
But Chambers said that this incident harkens back to the fatal Alton Sterling police shooting in 2016, which also took place at the hands of Baton Rouge police. He was a spokesperson for that family as well and says he was concerned that this incident could have easily escalated to something just as deadly.
“One of the cops said he feared for his life,” Chambers told BET.com. “One of the comments that I made back in response to that is to fear for your life on a D-1 college campus...and seeing Black students...it’s white kids that shoot up college campuses in America, not Black ones.
“We have numerous incidents where young white males are more of a threat to a police officer in a parking garage at night on a college campus than a young Black male is because we don’t see incidences of young Black men shooting and harming police officers on college campuses,” he continued.
“Far too often with police officers, this overagression that exists, when you allow them to get away with these... smaller infractions of cursing at an individual, drawing your gun unnecessarily, when you allow that to persist, you end up at an Alton Sterling.”
RELATED: How the Killing of Alton Sterling Has Brought Attention to Baton Rouge's Segregation Issues
LSU released Coach Orgeron’s statement saying that he could not comment on what happened with Moore and Holden, stating that “we must work collectively to embrace our differences.”
University of Alabama officials have not yet released a statement on the incident.
Thompson said that the families of the football players have not yet decided whether to pursue litigation against the city of Baton Rouge, but the legal team is prepared to go any direction.
“The next step that we’re doing is calling for the release of the video so that the public can see,” said Thompson. “Once we get the release of the video, the team is going to get together and what I can tell you is all options are on the table.”