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Injured man says he was beaten by state troopers

29th September 2015   ·   0 Comments

Michael Baugh told WWL that he had just closed up his family’s hair salon Friday night, Sept. 18, when two state troopers approached his truck, looking for a man waving a gun.

Although the troopers never found a gun, by the end of the confrontation Baugh had to be rushed to the University Hospital emergency room with multiple injuries.

Baugh, 26, suffered chipped front teeth, a gash in the back of his head that required staples, a broken right wrist and a laceration the length of his back, according to WWL

“I told them that it wasn’t me. And I was falsely accused. They were saying that it was me,” Baugh said. “It was mistaken identity.”

According to court records, Baugh was booked with resisting arrest, battery of a police officer and possession of marijuana. The officers stated in a police report that the marijuana was found inside Baugh’s truck after a subsequent search.

The report also states that one of the troopers was punched and kicked by Baugh, and the trooper suffered a knee injury that required medical attention. Baugh denies striking the officers.

Baugh and his attorney, David Abdullah, told WWL last week that they are preparing a formal brutality complaint against the state troopers.

“He was severely beaten,” Abdullah said. “There’s no dispute about that. And we’re gathering the information and we’ll soon have a clear picture of how that came to be.”

Before filing the complaint, Abdullah said he is seeking to determine whether there are witnesses or surveillance video that captured the confrontation. He said he is also preparing a legal motion to preserve any evidence in the possession of the state police, including dash cam video or cell phone images.

Abdullah told WWL that the incident occurred at about 11 p.m., after Baugh had finished working a 12-hour day as a barber at his family’s hair salon, Flaw-Luxe Hair Studio, 110 S. Rampart St.

“There’s no doubt that a young man, working hard, trying to do the right thing, had this confrontation with state troopers, which at some point went terribly, terribly wrong.”

One of the troopers involved in the incident is identified in the police report as Eric Thaxton, while the other is only referred to as Trooper Robertson. The officers are deployed in the French Quarter and CBD as part of a 50-trooper contingent sent to assist the undermanned New Orleans Police Department.

Louisiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Nicholas Manale told WWL that the agency will deal with any complaint once it is filed.

“We take these matters seriously and we will investigate all aspects of this case thoroughly,” Manale said.

According to the police report, the troopers were responding to a call of a man in a truck waving a handgun in the area of Elk and Canal streets.

Baugh said he searched with the troopers when they approached, asking about a gun. He said he told the troopers they had the wrong person, and some elements of the police report support Baugh’s claim of mistaken identity.

While the complaint referred to a man with a gun on Elk Street, Baugh was parked a block away on Rampart Street. Baugh said he was parked in a truck, but a gray truck, not a black one as described in the report.

Nevertheless, Baugh said he was cooperating and looking for his ID when one of the troopers startled him from behind. That caused him to jerk away and, the next thing Baugh remembers was getting shocked twice by a stun gun

Trooper Thaxton said in the police report that he used his Taser on Baugh, “striking the male in the back. The male fell to the ground on the asphalt. I continued to give loud verbal commands to stop resisting. The male was able to get back up and began running again down Elk Street. I activated my Taser again.”

“I have holes in my back from the prongs of the Taser that I was Tased with twice. Not once, but twice,” Baugh told WWL. “It’s just not right. They had the wrong person and I told them that. I kept saying, ‘Why me? Why me?’”

In the police report, the troopers said they searched Baugh’s truck after detecting the smell of marijuana. They said that they found a plastic pill bottle with “green leafy matter” that later tested positive for marijuana.

According to WWL, Baugh’s criminal record shows a 2010 marijuana possession case for which he entered the district attorney’s diversion program.

The incident occurred less than two weeks after State Treasurer John Kennedy recommended that the NOPD utilize a more aggressive stop-and-frisk policy to get a handle on New Orleans’ crime problem.

Responding to Kennedy’s remarks, Col. Mike Edmonson of the Louisiana State Police told WDSU that state troopers are already using an aggressive stop-and-frisk policy in New Orleans but added that the statewide agency is only doing so when there is probable cause.

A number of grassroots community leaders and justice advocates criticized the recommendation, saying that it could potentially violate residents’ constitutional rights and run afoul of the federally mandated NOPD consent decree aimed at bringing the embattled police department up to federal standards for constitutional policing.

Implementation of the NOPD consent decree began in August 2013, two years after a scathing U.S. Department of Justice report cited widespread abuse and corruption within the NOPD.

“Aggressive stop-and-frisk tactics is the last thing we need in New Orleans,” the Rev. Raymond Brown, a community activist and president of National Action Now, told The Louisiana Weekly. “Whether we’re talking about the NOPD or state troopers, we need law enforcement officers who adhere to the rules and respect everyone’s constitutional rights regardless of race or socioeconomic class.”

Next month, registered voters in the French Quarter will decide whether to raise sales taxes in the tourist destination to help pay for public safety in the area, WWL reported.

If passed, the quarter-cent sales tax would fund continued Louisiana State Police presence and security details in the Vieux Carre.

“It’ll take us into the 5th District, into the 3rd District. It’ll take us all out to New Orleans East, the lower Marigny, Central Business District, Carrollton, towards the Zoo, towards the Park. We can go anywhere where New Orleans needs us,” LSP Col. Mike Edmonson told WWL News.

This article originally published in the September 28, 2015 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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