BRUSLY, LA (WAFB) - A civil rights lawsuit is in the works after the grandmother of a Brusly Middle School student says the 14-year-old boy suffered physical and psychological injuries after an October 5 incident in the school’s office.
Leaked video footage shows a police officer wrestling with a student and slamming him to the ground twice as school staff members nervously look on. Another officer eventually arrived and appeared to slam the boy onto a desk.
Brusly Police Chief Jonathan Lafeaux said both officers had been with the department about three years before resigning in the wake of the incident. Lafeaux asked Louisiana State Police to investigate the case for allegations of excessive force.
Attorney Kwame Asante said Monday that LSP investigators initially told him that the student provoked the officer with violence, but the leaked video appears to show the boy trying to walk away from the officer.
“We were led to believe one thing, then we saw the leaked video and it was something else," said Asante. "So, we’re not happy about the way that that was presented to us by the State Police.”
The child’s grandmother (who WAFB has chosen not to name to protect the identity of the minor) said her grandson suffered bruises to his face and a cut to his chin, but that she’s more concerned about lasting psychological damage.
“Since the incident, he went in the hospital with more trauma,” she said.
Asante painted a picture of a troubled teenager who has struggled with anxiety and depression since his mother died unexpectedly five years ago when the boy was 9 years old. The grandmother said her grandson has been on medication and is classified as a student with special needs.
"He has been having behavioral issues. He has been getting a lot of treatments at home, but when it comes to the school with the treatments, they wasn’t backing us,” she explained.
Asante plans to file suit against West Baton Rouge Parish Schools and the Brusly Police Department. He said the main goal is to improve training and protocols to prevent a situation like this from happening again.
“We believe that had the school put forth certain services, certain interventions, certain trainings, that this child may not have ended up being brutalized the way they were,” Asante added.
The footage shows the student walk into the office and approach the desk where staff members appear to help him make a phone call. Asante said the student was ordered to go to detention, but wanted to call his grandmother to come pick him up instead.
About 15 seconds later, Officer Anthony “Kip” Dupre entered and began saying something to the teen and pointing at him. No audio was recorded, so it’s unclear what was said.
The boy remained standing in the same spot until it appears he no longer wanted to make the phone call. He stepped away from the desk and walked toward the exit. The officer, who towers over the teen at about twice his size, stepped toward the kid, put him in a rear choke hold, and slammed him to the ground.
Once on the ground, the scuffle was mostly obscured from the camera, but the officer can be seen placing his eyeglasses on top the desk as he wrestled the student for nearly a minute. At one point, the officer’s right arm and shoulder are seen making forcible, jab-like movements in quick succession, as if he were throwing punches.
Sources initially said the teen admitted to reaching for the officer’s gun during the struggle and had fought with other officers on at least two prior occasions. The video shows the officer’s gun come loose and a staff member picked it up and placed it on the desk. She relocated the gun a second time as the scuffle moved closer toward it.
Asante said the boy never knowingly reached for the gun, but did say he may have inadvertently grabbed the officer’s belt while trying to push him away during the struggle on the ground.
At about the 1:45 mark in the video, the officer rose to his feet while holding the teen in a headlock, then lifted him into the air upside down, and body slammed him to the ground again.
Staff members behind the desk appear to be shocked by the events and one woman covered her face while nervously pacing back and forth.
With the boy pinned to the ground, the officer appeared to lie on top of him for about 80 seconds until a second policeman, Officer Dan Cipriano, arrived and took over. After the student was placed in handcuffs, Cipriano stood the boy up, then slammed him down face first onto the admin desk before pulling the boy back up and escorting him out the door.
After the two officers left with the student, the staff members appear to put on latex gloves and wipe up the floor and the area of the desk where the teen was slammed.
Louisiana State Police is investigating the case for allegations of excessive force. An LSP spokesman was not able to provide a timeline on when the report would be finalized, but said it would be “sooner rather than later.” That report will then be submitted to the district attorney. The district attorney’s office said it plans to present the case to a grand jury, regardless of LSP’s findings.