I-TEAM: Woman threatened with arrest while recording aftermath of deputy-involved wreck
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Video shared with the WAFB I-TEAM shows the aftermath of a wreck that happened on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, on Evangeline Street and Lemonwood Drive in Baton Rouge.
Daphne Brooks recorded the video not long after she got to the scene of the wreck to check on her nephew, Javonte Brooks. He was involved in a wreck with an East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s deputy.
The video shows the passenger side of Brooks’ car is smashed in and the airbag has been deployed, giving some idea of the impact of the crash.
The video picks up shortly after the crash before EMS had even arrived on the scene. The woman in the video can be heard asking deputies on the scene for their names and badge numbers. While the video appears to show the deputies never answer that question, a spokeswoman with EBRSO says they had already given the woman that information right before the video started.
Later in the video, the camera shakes and points toward the ground. Brooks tells the WAFB I-TEAM that is when one of the deputies grabbed her arm and threatened to arrest her. After backing off, Brooks later went back up to the patrol car, trying to get a video of the damage. The video shows that the front end of the EBRSO unit is crumpled up and the airbag is also deployed. Before Brooks can get closer, one of the deputies can be heard telling her to get away from the unit.
Brooks says the entire ordeal was unprofessional and that deputies were rude to her from the moment she showed up on the scene of the wreck. She also questions why she was not allowed to document the damage to the EBRSO unit and why deputies threatened her with an arrest.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked attorney Franz Borghardt about the situation after he reviewed the video.
“I don’t have a problem with people recording incidents. Frankly, I think it’s a good idea,” said Borghardt.
Borghardt believes Brooks was well within her rights to record and ask basic information from law enforcement officers but he does agree that citizens should not interfere with an active law enforcement investigation.
“I didn’t see anything in that video that necessarily should have led to her being arrested or handcuffed but in the same breath, those officers have an obligation to investigate and so if she is interfering with that investigation they absolutely can remove her from that crime scene,” said Borghardt.
Situations like this are so controversial that state lawmakers are debating the topic right now at the capitol. Lawmakers are weighing a bill that would require citizens to stay 25 feet away from law enforcement officers who are in the middle of their official duties.
“The question is what is okay and what’s not okay,” said Borghardt. “The public has a right to know what’s going on but they don’t have a right to interfere with police investigations.”
Borghardt says since the video does not show the full interaction from start to finish, it is hard to determine what all happened but he does believe things should not have escalated.
“Can she take video? Well yeah, she can take video and in fact, getting angry or upset that she’s taking video, that’s just bad optics,” said Borghardt.
Brooks says her nephew was making a left turn when the sheriff’s deputy slammed into him but the sheriff’s office has a different version of what happened, saying it was the other driver who pulled out in front of the deputy and caused the crash. The sheriff’s office investigated the incident and a spokeswoman says all of the evidence supports their version of events. That same spokeswoman also confirmed to the WAFB I-TEAM that the EBRSO unit involved in the wreck is not equipped with a dash camera. Attorney Borghardt says it is concerning that the sheriff’s office would investigate a wreck that their own deputy was involved.
“I think a good procedure might be is if a sheriff’s office is in a car accident maybe call Baton Rouge Police out there or another agency needs to be the ones coming out to investigate because, from a citizen optics standpoint, you have your own agency investigating a car accident where you may be liable,” said Borghardt.
Since they do have jurisdiction across the parish, the sheriff’s office is able to investigate their own wrecks but Borghardt says in the interest of full transparency for the public, another agency should have stepped in for this crash.
“Can they do it? Sure. Should they do it? I don’t know,” said Borghardt.
Javonte Brooks was taken to the hospital to be treated after the crash. The sheriff’s office added that he was later arrested on an outstanding warrant and that he was ticketed for not having a license, an expired inspection sticker and for turning left at an intersection. The WAFB I-TEAM did ask the sheriff’s office if the deputies were equipped with body cameras and if those cameras were activated during the encounter. While the video appears to show the deputies do have body cameras, it remains unclear if they were activated.
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