BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The cousin of one of the fallen Baton Rouge officers said he was detained shortly after the police shooting because law enforcement thought he was somehow involved.
"I haven't even been able to mourn his death because to me, that day isn't the day my cousin was killed. That's the day I was detained for eight, nine hours and wasn't given my medicine and had to be rushed to the hospital," said Damarcus Alexander, who is the cousin of Cpl. Montrell Jackson.
Early on the morning of Sunday July 17, Alexander and his friend were driving from Dallas to Belle Rose in Assumption Parish, where his friend had been invited to sing at church. However, Addis police officers stopped them near a gas station in West Baton Rouge Parish.
"He said there was a shooting involving some police in Baton Rouge. 'Yes sir.' He's like, 'Well, we already got the guy who did it, but we think he might not have worked alone so we're looking at you two. Your car matches the description to a T,'" Alexander said.
Alexander, who was wearing camouflage pants, and his friend had stopped at a Walmart in Port Allen to change into church clothes. Someone found that to be suspicious and called 911.
Just across the river in East Baton Rouge Parish, a gunman had just shot six members of law enforcement, including Alexander's cousin.
In Addis, Alexander and his friend faced questions as more officers arrived on the scene. Soon, he became worried himself, knowing he had several family members on the force back home in Baton Rouge, including his father.
"I kept telling, 'Please can I call someone to find out about my family, I'm trying to find out if any of my family members were hurt.' And no one would let me call, and at the end of it, it ended up being my family," Alexander said.
He said he was kept in custody for eight hours and not allowed to make a phone call.
He said police detained him in spite of a receipt he had in his car for a convenience store 100 miles away in Alexandria, La. The time stamp on that receipt was 8:43 a.m., just moments after the shooting Baton Rouge began. He said he pleaded with officers to look at it and to call the store.
"This is hard evidence, that's all I kept telling them. This isn't my witness statement. This isn't witness testimony. I'm giving you hard evidence of where I was. You can't dispute a receipt," Alexander said.
He was later transported to East Baton Rouge and detained at Louisiana State Police headquarters. He said matters then turned to the worse. He had to be taken to Baton Rouge General Hospital.
As a diabetic, he needed insulin to keep his blood sugar down. However, he said police denied his repeated requests for the medication and his blood sugar spiked dangerously high. He required a trip to the emergency room.
Police eventually released him, at which time he got his cell phone back. It was then that he saw the terrible news: his cousin had died in the ambush shooting.
"There was absolutely no reason for Mr. Alexander and his friend to have been detained for nine hours. There were no weapons in the car. There was nothing suspicious about them. They were not in Baton Rouge," said Joel Porter, one of Alexander's attorneys.
They are now planning a lawsuit against the agencies involved.
"If they received a call, I can understand why they detained them and ask them certain questions or whatever. But once you find out that this person has a receipt, that he was 100 miles away, that he had no relation to the situation, that he identifies himself as having his father and several members of his family in law enforcement," said attorney George Downing, Jr.
They said the incident involving Alexander is symptomatic of larger issues involving law enforcement. He said relations between the police and the African-American community need to be improved.
"They treat the black community as though they have no rights. They treat them in the most unprofessional manners, they violate both constitutional and civil rights, and they violate the rule of law," Porter said.
"If I did not have some kind of evidence, that I was not there, I probably would not be speaking with you here today. I felt like I had already been charged and convicted of those officers' murder when I was being detained," Alexander said.
Not all of the law enforcement agencies Alexander said were involved responded to an immediate request for comment. Those that did said they had not received a formal complaint from Alexander and therefore had no comment.