LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Police Department responded Wednesday to the airing of a video that appears to show two officers repeatedly striking a man outside of a downtown nightclub two years ago, defending the officers’ actions.
The department reviewed the video soon after the incident and found no violations of departmental policy, the news release said.
In an email Wednesday, Police Chief Jim Craft said if one watches the video frame by frame, the video shows the suspect pulling away from officers who were attempting to arrest him.
“Then you see him swing at the officers,” Craft wrote.
The video was aired Tuesday on KLFY-TV. It comes at a time when the Police Department is facing a federal lawsuit by nine current and former officers who are alleging a “culture of corruption” within the department that includes allegations of coverups, racial discrimination, payroll fraud, the manipulation of crime statistics and harassment.
Craft has called the officers involved in the litigation “disgruntled employees” whose claims are “little more than a baseless and purposeful attempt to dishonor” the department and the officers who serve within it.
The incident occurred at 12:50 a.m. June 18, 2010, in the parking lot of Karma Nite Club on Jefferson Street, according to a police news release.
The surveillance video, posted June 11 on YouTube, shows two officers approaching a person in the top right of the screen. Soon after the encounter, the officers are seen punching the individual.
Officers are later seen dragging the man away in handcuffs.
The officers responded to a reported fight and made contact with a victim who had suffered a facial injury, the news release said.
The two officers then approached the suspect, later identified as Morris Thomas, and told him that he was being arrested, the news release said.
Thomas began screaming and yelling at the officers, the news release said.
When one of the officers attempted to apprehend Thomas, Morris began “pulling away” from the officers and the officers responded with physical force to take Thomas into custody, the news release said.
The first officer who approached Thomas suffered a minor injury to the face after Thomas struck him twice in the face, the news release said.
KLFY’s report Tuesday includes an interview with District Attorney Michael Harson, who was asked by the station to review the video.
Harson said he found the incident “very suspicious” because from what he saw, “It did not appear that the individual did a lot to provoke the ultimate fight.”
The prosecutor added, however, he could not hear what was said and he could not fully see whether the suspect did anything that might have led officers to react in the manner they did.
The department’s news release challenged KLFY’s report. “To imply that this matter was not properly handled by LPD is incorrect and irresponsible,” the news release said
The news release also included a timeline of the actions the department took in response to the incident.
That timeline shows Thomas, who lives out of state, contacted the department on July 8, 2010, asking to file a complaint against the officers involved.
On the following day, an internal affairs investigator mailed Thomas statement forms. The investigator then followed up Aug. 2, 2010, to check on the status of the statement forms.
On Sept. 13, 2010, the investigator viewed and obtained video of the incident from a local lawyer.
Ten days later, Craft wrote a letter to the FBI asking the agency to investigate the incident because Thomas lives out of state.
The police chief also expressed concern about a possible conflict of interest due to the city’s ongoing litigation with Karma Nite Club pertaining to a license revocation, according to the news release.
In a letter to the FBI, Craft wrote the department learned about the video during Karma’s initial revocation hearing.
The FBI notified Craft on Oct. 12, 2010, that an official investigation had started.
The FBI then requested all documents and evidence pertaining to the incident on Nov. 19, 2010, which the department delivered 11 days later.
Thomas pleaded guilty in state District Court on Aug. 11 to resisting an officer and simple battery, both misdemeanors, in the incident.
He had been arrested on counts of second-degree battery, aggravated battery of a police officer, battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and disturbing the peace.
Thomas never followed through with his initial complaint, the news release said.
The department also included in its news release copies of the letter Craft sent to the FBI and the FBI’s response to that letter.
Craft’s letter identifies the officers involved as Joel Grayson and Cpl. Thaddeus Sices.
The police chief wrote he felt it best to have another agency review the matter to determine if the officers acted properly and to determine if Thomas’ civil rights were violated.
On Wednesday, Craft wrote the FBI completed its investigation and forwarded the case to the U.S. Department of Justice, “as they do with all civil rights investigations.”
The FBI does not report its findings to the Police Department, he said.
The news release was not issued until 5 p.m. Wednesday so comments from either the FBI or the Justice Department were not available.
To view the video, visit YouTube and search for Police Assault.mov. The video was posted by the username “James Bond.”