Lawsuit accuses BRPD officers of using excessive force during August 2016 arrest

Lawsuit accuses BRPD officers of using excessive force during August 2016 arrest
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A new lawsuit claims Baton Rouge Police officers took an arrest during the historic August 2016 flood too far. One of the officers named in that suit has faced accusations of misconduct and abuse in the past.

The lawsuit accuses the officers of excessive force and battery, stemming from an incident on August 18, 2016. Mario Powell, who was 28-years-old at the time, was at the Super Stop convenience store along N Foster Dr. about two hours after a flood-related curfew went into place. As Powell was leaving the parking lot, the lawsuit claims a white man jumped out of a nearby brown truck in street clothes, drawing a gun.

"Frightened for his life," the lawsuit says, Powell drove off. He only later realized the man was a police officer. The lawsuit further says due to the "precariousness of the situation," Powell decided it would be best to drive to his nearby home.

However, before he got to his house, police cars appeared both in front and behind him with lights and sirens, so he pulled over along Prescott Rd.

The suit claims an officer named Jason Acree ripped open his door, punched him in the face, and dragged him from the vehicle, at which point he received a "second blow to the face from a blunt object" – possibly a flashlight. Powell claims he was then forced to the ground where he "received several kicks to his sides" from all four officers.

"We believe the amount of force used during the arrest was inappropriate and frankly illegal," said Franz Borghardt, one of Powell's attorneys. "He was battered in the face and he had to go to the hospital as a result of it."

One of the officers named in the lawsuit, Acree, has faced accusations of abuse in the past. He was involved in a 2014 marijuana raid that ultimately ended up in federal court, with a judgment against Acree and another BRPD officer. For his part, the court found that Acree was involved in an "unreasonable" strip search during the raid.

A man in the home at the time had his teeth knocked out. While he was apparently not charged, that man, Brett Percle, was awarded $25,000 by the court. "I feel vindicated," Percle said after the trial.

Acree is also named as a defendant in at least one of the cases stemming from the Alton Sterling protests. He is among scores of officers accused of violating the civil rights of citizens during last summer's unrest.

"They shouldn't want bad apples in their police force, so hopefully they'll look at this and take whatever administrative actions are appropriate, especially if there's a pattern of this happening with these officers, or one particular officer, over and over again," said Borghardt.

A police report paints a different of the events from last August, claiming Powell ran stop signs, "resisted officers while being restrained," and had marijuana in his vehicle and on his person. Powell's attorney says, however, that regardless of whether those accusations are true or not, they do not justify how Powell was treated.

A spokesman for BRPD said they would not comment on pending litigation. Meanwhile, Powell was booked on several charges after the incident, including
flight from an officer and possession of marijuana. He awaits trial in October.

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