I-TEAM: Emails, reports reveal city leaders knew about allegations of abuse at area warehouse for months

Scottie Hunter and the WAFB I-TEAM follow up on their reporting on the BRPD Brave Cave
Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 5:54 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2023 at 11:26 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - In the midst of the fallout from allegations of police misconduct inside the Brave Cave, the WAFB I-TEAM is working to answer the question who knew about the allegations of abuse and for how long.

The Baton Rouge Police Department is looking into claims of alleged abuse by certain officers within the warehouse. It’s a place off Plank Road where certain suspects are taken to be interrogated.

BRPD chief Murphy Paul and Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome say it was important for them to take swift action by shutting down all activities at the facility for now.

“I can’t tell you at this point what’s going to happen to that warehouse but I can tell you that I have instructed Chief Paul to halt all operations there at that warehouse in light of these recent allegations and what has come forth,” said Broome. “I am very concerned with the seriousness of what has taken place there.”

Neither the mayor’s office nor the police department said anything publicly about the claims of torture at the facility until after the WAFB I-TEAM brought the allegations to light this week but WAFB’s Scottie Hunter has been able to obtain proof that their offices were told about the allegations months ago.

While giving a timeline related the Brave Cave at a news conference on Tuesday, August 29, 2023, staff with BRPD said a recent complaint came in about Officer Troy Lawrence, Jr. earlier this month. Members of Lawrence’s own unit wrote a letter, essentially requesting that he be removed from their division because of his behavior.

The WAFB I-TEAM obtained a copy of an online Internal Affairs complaint submitted to BRPD back in April by Jeremy Lee, the man who was allegedly beaten and questioned by Lawrence and other officers inside the Brave Cave in January 2023. An email obtained by the I-TEAM also shows where a member of the department responded to Lee’s attorney, Ryan Thompson, confirming they did receive the complaint.

Thompson now questions if the allegations were taken seriously when police first received them because earlier this week, a spokesman with the department told WAFB there had not been a complaint filed at all regarding the facility or any alleged police misconduct there.

“Jeremy’s mother, Ms. Green, she actually wrote an email essentially filing a complaint with the chief and I believe the mayor’s office was also cc’d on that email as well. From speaking with her, and I followed up this morning, she did receive a phone call back from the chief saying that he had received the complaint and that he would follow up with her. There was no follow-up,” said Thompson. “I also personally filed a complaint on behalf of my client, I believe in April, and I received contact back from someone in BRPD saying they received my complaint and they would investigate it. So there were actually two. One was in January and one was in April.”

When WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked the chief to offer clarity about the complaints at Tuesday’s news conference, he said there was an older complaint that he directed his staff to handle.

“I directed my Internal Affairs commander to look into that and make sure that we do a thorough investigation on all those who are involved in that incident at the facility which will include a review of all body cameras and an interview with all those who are there so we can present our findings to the complainant which is our standard policy,” said chief Paul. “Upon completion, he will be notified.”

The WAFB I-TEAM obtained the email sent to both the mayor’s office and the police department before asking the mayor if she remembered receiving the email, which was dated January 17, 2023.

“I will certainly look into it but I have no recollection at the moment of getting an email,” the mayor said Tuesday.

After checking, the mayor’s office got back to WAFB Wednesday morning saying they did find the email in question. The mayor released the following statement regarding the matter Wednesday afternoon.

“On January 17, an email was sent to my office and Chief Paul regarding the treatment of Mr. Jeremy Lee. Almost immediately, Chief Paul shared this message with his team to look into the allegations. This message was shared with members of the Criminal Investigations and Internal Affairs units.

It is standard practice that when a department head is included on an email to the mayor’s office, we expect that department head and/or their staff to follow-up with a response and resolution. We are currently in the process of identifying if there was a formal response to this complaint, and if not, why.”

While community leaders say they did not know about the name ‘Brave Cave’ prior to WAFB’s series of reports on the facility, it is clear that both the police department and the mayor’s office were at least made aware of the possible wrongdoing there.

Months after he brought it to their attention, attorney Ryan Thompson now questions why they’ve heard nothing about their complaints until now. He also questions the timing of the sudden response after the allegations were made public.

”It is concerning that it took this long for someone to say something publicly,” said Thompson.

While his complaint is still being investigated and the larger investigation into the Brave Cave continues to unfold, the attorney says he is eager to hear what comes forward.

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