A Louisiana prosecutor charged three white state troopers last week with misdemeanor simple battery for the 2020 beating of Black motorist Antonio Harris after a high-speed chase, the Associated Press reported May 12.
The charges were announced amid allegations that the Louisiana State Police has a pattern of cover-ups and using excessive force mainly against Black people.
Police body-camera video shows what happened when the troopers finally caught up with Harris, who led them on a 29-mile chase after he was stopped for a minor traffic violation.
Harris stepped out of his Hyundai Sonata and surrendered face down. But Trooper Dakota DeMoss started the assault by delivering a knee strike and slap to Harris’ face before turning off his body camera, according to court records.
The two other troopers, Jacob Brown and George Harper, joined DeMoss. The officers hoisted Harris by his hair braids and beat him, later bragging about it in text messages.
An internal investigation of the incident concluded that the troopers falsely claimed in their reports that Harris kept trying to flee and resisted arrest. They also claimed to use “tactical strikes” only when Harris fought them.
State police arrested the troopers in February 2021 on felony charges of malfeasance in office, but the prosecutor last week reduced the charges to a misdemeanor that carries up to six months behind bars and a $1,000 fine.
The troopers’ attorneys declined the AP’s request for comments.
Harris’ lawyer told the AP that he was disappointed in the reduced charge but hoped that federal prosecutors would also file charges against the troopers.
A federal grand jury is considering whether to recommend charges against them for using excessive force. However, there is uncertainty whether the Justice Department will move forward with civil rights charges.
In a similar case, a different set of troopers in 2019 stunned, beat and dragged Black motorist Ronald Greene to his death. A federal grand jury has been hearing testimony in that case.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers voted on Wednesday (May 11) to hold the former head of the state police in contempt for ignoring a subpoena and declining to submit his notes for their investigation of an attempted police cover-up in Greene’s death.