Mayor announces BRPD Street Crimes Unit will be disbanded, investigated amid Brave Cave fallout

Mayor Broome announced Thursday that the Baton Rouge Police Department facility known as the Brave Cave will remain closed.
Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 10:57 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2023 at 6:46 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome announced that the Baton Rouge Police Department facility known to some officers as the “Brave Cave” will remain closed permanently at an impromptu news conference Thursday, August 31, 2023. She also announced the BRPD Street Crimes Unit will be disbanded temporarily and each of the nine officers in the unit will be reassigned to uniform patrol as the investigation continues. Additionally, in the early days of the investigation, the mayor says there is now enough evidence for the BRPD chief of police to launch a criminal investigation into alleged misconduct committed by members of that unit.

“I want to assure the public that the mayor is in control of this situation,” said Mayor Broome. “We have made the decision that the facility will remain closed permanently and it will not be used for policing activities going forward.”

Mayor Broome announced Thursday that the Baton Rouge Police Department facility known as the Brave Cave will remain closed.

The announcement comes just days after the WAFB I-TEAM first exposed allegations that some officers have been abusing and questioning suspects inside the warehouse located near BRPD’s first district precinct in the area of Plank Road. Once those allegations were brought to light, the mayor directed the chief of police to halt all operations at the location and launch the comprehensive investigation into the claims.

“An ongoing investigation has yielded enough disturbing details to formally announce that [BRPD Chief Murphy Paul] has initiated a criminal investigation related to the handling of the suspects and the policing activities of this unit,” said Broome.WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked attorney Ryan Thompson how significant the announcement is in his opinion.

“That’s huge,” said Thompson. “After you have arrested someone and taken them to this site for who knows how many hours and suspended their liberties and then say now that there’s a criminal investigation. I bet there is. Because, from the beginning, I’ve always felt that this was criminal.”

At a news conference earlier this week, Chief Paul and his senior staff said the first time they heard the term Brave Cave was from watching WAFB’s reporting, but they were adamant that nothing secretive was going on there. Now it seems there may have been some secretive things going on at the Brave Cave, with swift action being taken just days into their probe of the facility.

The allegations of torture all stems from an arrest back in January where a man named Jeremy Lee was taken into custody once then-officer Troy Lawrence, Jr. and other officers showed up to a north Baton Rouge neighborhood looking for drugs and guns. 

Body camera video shows Lee being put into the back of a BRPD unit, and then - hours later - being taken away. The next time Lee shows up on body camera video, he can be seen grabbing his stomach as he’s being questioned by at least three officers. Lee’s attorney claims Lee was beaten so badly inside the warehouse that he had to be taken to the hospital, where he was treated for a fractured rib and other injuries. The day after WAFB first reported the allegations, Troy Lawrence, Jr. abruptly resigned. WAFB learned at a news conference this week that the former officer was facing a pre-termination hearing next week after members of his unit submitted a complaint this month, wanting him gone because of his behavior. 

“I received a letter from the supervisors concerning the officer and [him] not responding to training and [them] basically not wanting him in the unit anymore,” chief Paul said at the news conference.

At the same news conference, WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked about any possible oversight at the Brave Cave, specifically if there’s any record of who’s brought into the facility and when. 

“Umm, no there is no necessary authorization that’s needed,” said Myron Daniels, a BRPD deputy chief. 

Attorney Thompson believes the lack of oversight surrounding the use of the facility will lead to problems when the agency tries to track down who all was affected by activity inside the facility. In order to track down everyone who may have been taken there and vet any claims of abuse, Thompson believes there should be a special operation put in place to capture those allegations. He also wants an extra set of eyes on the probe to make sure BRPD’s investigation into their own is thorough.

”It creates a huge problem,” said Thompson. “I think the department under chief Murphy Paul is competent enough to do it; however, I still believe in oversight. I don’t want the chickens doing the investigations of the chickens. I need someone with oversight to overlook that hen house, like a farmer. Whether that be the Department of Justice or whether that be the state [Attorney General’s] office, someone needs to do a concurrent investigation of these criminal allegations.”

”Let me make this extremely clear, you are my priority and any injustices is my top priority,” said Broome. “We have come too far to have this relationship eroded by a few bad actors.”

While the mayor assures the community she is laser focused on getting to the bottom of what may have happened at the facility, Thompson says the action taken today sends a strong message to any of the bad actors who may have operated out of the Brave Cave.

“If you’re a bad actor, people will find out,” said Thompson. “You may get away with it once or twice or you may get away with it for years but at some point, your bad acts will come to light.”

The investigation into the Brave Cave is ongoing.

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