Charges dropped for man accused of shooting at police officer

Raheem Howard (Source: East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office)
Raheem Howard (Source: East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office)
Published: Sep. 4, 2018 at 2:54 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Attorneys for the man accused of shooting at a Baton Rouge police officer say the charges against their client have been dropped.

Raheem Howard was charged with attempted murder of a police officer and illegal use of a weapon. He remains in jail on unrelated charges. BRPD reports Officer Yuseff Hamadeh pulled Howard over for a traffic violations on N 16th Street. Howard then fled, and Hamadeh chased after him. Howard then allegedly fired a shot at Hamadeh, who returned fire.

But Howard’s attorney, Ron Haley, disputes this report. He says Howard never had a weapon. BRPD says Hamadeh’s body camera and dash camera were turned off during the incident.

“He didn’t have it. There was not evidence. Because he didn’t have a gun, he didn’t fire a shot. And I think the suppression of the evidence by the cameras either malfunctioning or being willfully turned off only lends to that argument,” said Haley.

Haley also says he’s meeting with Howard’s family to determine if they want to pursue any civil action against Hamadeh. The National Black Police Association also released a statement on Hamadeh. The Dallas-based organization says they are concerned that Hamadeh’s cameras were turned off and they will “continue to monitor this situation closely, to ensure the fair and equitable administration of justice.”

The full statement can be read below.

The National Black Police Association (NBPA) is following closely, with concern, the recent shooting incident involving Baton Rouge Police Officer Yuseff Hamadeh, and the subsequent arrest of Raheem Howard. The incident and arrest calls into question potential issues surrounding the proper use and policy covering body worn cameras (BWCs) and the policy surrounding use of force of the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD), as well as overall transparency. That the district attorney’s office has now dropped the charges against Mr. Howard for lack of evidence, raises additional questions about Officer Hamadeh’s actions during this incident.

We acknowledge the difficulties of a police investigation into an officer-involved shooting—this one is particularly challenging, since Ofcr. Hamadeh did not have his body worn camera activated. However, there are differing perceptions of what actually occurred on the evening of August 7. While the police department contends that Mr. Howard fired at Ofcr. Hamadeh with a handgun and the officer fired back, no handgun, potentially wielded by Mr. Howard, was found. Mr. Howard immediately asked that the officer’s body worn camera footage be viewed, because he had no gun—he had only fled the scene. Indeed, witnesses state that they heard only a single gunshot. With these preliminary facts in mind, the now-revealed absence of any body worn camera video, the department’s refusal to release the video obtained by a citizen for public review, and Ofcr. Hamadeh’s history of now a second controversial police shooting, the NBPA, and the public, are concerned that the investigation into this matter is justly conducted.

We are also concerned if Ofcr. Hamadeh followed the BRPD’s own Use of Force policy, just revised last year, which includes de-escalation, disengagement, and summonsing reinforcements. It is reported that Ofcr. Hamadeh stopped Mr. Howard for a “missing tag”. A man running away from police may seem suspicious, but it is not against the law. In a world where black citizens are fearful of the outcome of encounters with police officers, it is not a far reach that running seems a viable option. Running should not end in potential harm to a citizen who, by all appearances, has only committed the crime of having a missing tag. Nor should it release the criminal justice system from being responsible for the fair treatment and due process of Mr. Howard.

We are hopeful, during the investigation of whether Ofcr. Hamadeh followed Baton Rouge police departmental guidelines, that the BRPD is willing to be fair, unbiased, balanced and thorough. Multiple stakeholders not only include the police community, but also Mr. Howard’s family and his community. It is the duty of law enforcement to ensure justice for all citizens—that would include Mr. Howard. The relationship between BRPD and the black community of Baton Rouge needs special attention, as the chasm of distrust created since the tragedy of the Alton Sterling incident widens.

Truth and transparency are cornerstones of leadership in policing. The NBPA is committed to ensuring equity for the community, as we work to enhance trust and legitimacy in policing. We will continue to monitor this situation closely, to ensure the fair and equitable administration of justice.

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