Former Police Chief Jeff LeDuff testified Wednesday he fired Officer Nathan Davis in July 2007 because LeDuff deemed as “credible” an allegation that Davis kicked and pepper-sprayed a handcuffed man who later underwent surgery for a ruptured bladder.
LeDuff also told an East Baton Rouge Parish jury that Davis was not truthful at a pre-disciplinary hearing when he denied kicking and pepper-spraying Brian Townsend at a police substation on Highland Road on March 4, 2007.
Townsend, a former Baton Rouge resident who now lives in Texas, is scheduled to testify Thursday at the trial of his lawsuit against Davis and the city-parish. Townsend is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
Davis, who is serving a six-year federal prison term after pleading guilty in 2009 to violating Townsend’s civil rights, has admitted tackling and pepper-spraying Townsend outside Townsend’s Highland Creek Parkway residence during a misdemeanor arrest but denies pepper-spraying or kicking Townsend at the police substation.
The jury is expected to watch Davis’ videotaped prison deposition Thursday in state District Judge Todd Hernandez’s courtroom. The trial could conclude Friday.
LeDuff testified he forwarded Davis’ case to the FBI after he fired the officer, and the FBI referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baton Rouge for prosecution. LeDuff added that Davis was the only city police officer prosecuted for excessive force while he served as chief.
“It’s always tough to terminate somebody, to take that career away,” LeDuff said while being questioned by Aidan Reynolds, one of Townsend’s attorneys. LeDuff noted that Davis had a master’s in criminal justice.
Former Officer Nicholas Batiste, who also went to Townsend’s home in response to an anonymous complaint about noise coming from a party at the home, testified in a deposition taken in Austin, Texas, that his police report about the events of March 4, 2007, was “general and vague” and not entirely truthful.
Jurors watched Batiste’s deposition Wednesday.
At the police substation, Batiste said Davis and a handcuffed Townsend were “both at each other,” with Townsend taunting Davis by repeatedly chanting the officer’s name, and Davis telling Townsend to “shut up.”
At one point, Batiste said, an angry Davis rushed behind him in the direction of Townsend.
“I heard a loud thump noise, and I heard Brian yell, ‘Ow, he kicked me’,” Batiste said.
Batiste said Davis was supposed to write a supplemental report to the police report that Batiste wrote, but never did. After news broke of the incident, Batiste said Davis called him and said “we just need to stick to the report” — which made no mention of Townsend allegedly being kicked by Davis.
Batiste said he “told the whole truth” after federal authorities offered him immunity from prosecution. In doing so, Batiste said he was labeled a “snitch” inside the Police Department and eventually resigned.
“I felt like I was black-balled,” he testified in his deposition.
Townsend’s misdemeanor charges for a noise violation and resisting arrest were dismissed.