BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Virginia man visiting Baton Rouge says he was thrown to the ground and arrested while trying to video the actions of city police officers. The claims by Daniel Clement, 22, of Flint Hill, are now the focus of an internal affairs investigation within the Baton Rouge Police Department. Investigators have obtained a copy of surveillance video from the Varsity Theater, which captured much of the incident.
Clement was one of several people police arrested outside the Varsity Theater near LSU just after midnight Monday. Witnesses say paramedics were first called to the scene to assist a female who had passed out after a holiday party that was being held inside. Police were then called to the scene "in reference to EMS and Fire needing assistance with a large hostile crowd making threats and not letting them do their jobs," a responding officer wrote in his probable cause report tied to Clement's arrest.
A portion of the surveillance video provided to the 9News Investigators by Clement shows him standing in front of the business. Clement, who admits he'd been drinking, is seen standing near the sidewalk along Highland Road wearing a bright red shirt. He appears to be swaying and having trouble standing. As police appear to be arresting someone nearby, Clement is seen holding his cell phone in the air, recording their actions.
"I saw a police officer push somebody and I've always been told if something like that is going on, it's important to have an objective source of data for what happened," Clement said. "So, I pulled my phone out and I started filming."
That is when a Baton Rouge police officer is seen on surveillance video walking over to Clement and snatching his phone away.
"It got ripped from my hands and as I turned to see who ripped it, another officer slammed me into the railing outside," Clement added.
That officer is then seen on surveillance video putting his hands around Clement's neck and tossing him to the ground where he partially landed on top of another officer who was apprehending someone else.
"They threw me on the ground and started throwing their knees into me," he explained.
A friend of Clement is seen on the surveillance video grabbing the arm of the officer who put his hands around Clement's neck. That man was then quickly tackled by police and also arrested. That man said police also sprayed him with mace.
In his official report, the officer wrote that as he and other officers first arrived, they spent nearly 10 minutes trying to clear the crowd, repeatedly ordering them to leave the area. He said Clement was advised to leave and did not.
"The crowd was not moving and another officer grabbed someone next to the defendant (Clement) to arrest them," the officer wrote.
He also wrote that Clement "jumped on that officer and began pushing that officer off of his friend."
Clement said that is not true. The portion of the surveillance video he provided to WAFB does not appear to support the officer's claims. Police declined to say whether any other portion of the surveillance video they have reviewed supports the officer's version of events.
Clement was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on charges of public intoxication, battery on police, resisting an officer and remaining after forbidden.
Police spokesman Cpl. L'Jean Mckneely said there is very little he can say about the incident because of the ongoing internal affairs investigation.
"Right now, everything is under review," Mckneely said. "We're doing a thorough investigation. The chief is trying to get down to the bottom of it to find out exactly what happened. After the investigation is completely over, he's going to make a decision and whatever his decision is it will be done swiftly and effectively."
Mckneely added that in general, there is nothing illegal about recording the actions of police, if the person is doing so from a safe distance.
"If they're in a safe area and they're not interfering with any activities that the officers are doing, then they are able to use their cell phones to record any incidents or actions that are taking place," he said.
Mckneely would not comment on whether Clement was recording from a safe distance, citing the ongoing investigation.
Clement, who was in town to attend a friend's graduation from LSU, said he recently graduated from college in Virginia and has applied to enter the Peace Corps. He also said his cell phone, which police took from him, has not been returned. He said he did not want to return home without speaking publicly about what he says happened to him in Baton Rouge.
"I'm not allowing them to treat people this way. Any media that can shine light on this is good because unless people are educated on problems, there's no progress," he added.