Rough arrest of Black teen in southern Louisiana prompts internal police probe

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One Lafayette officer was put on leave and two more taken of regular duties, following bowling alley confrontation.

Police in southern Louisiana put one officer on leave, removed two more from regular duty and launched an internal probe of their confrontation with two Black teens, officials said Thursday.

Bystander video appeared to show at least one officer throwing punches as Lafayette police handcuffed a young Black male Saturday night at the Acadian Lanes Bowling Alley. It wasn’t immediately clear what happened before the videos showed punches being thrown.

Officers initially came to the scene answering calls that a person was in the parking lot with a gun, but they left after finding no one matching the description, Lafayette Police Sgt. Wayne Griffin told local media outlets.

When officers returned to the same parking lot 30 minutes later for an unrelated traffic stop, that’s when they said they spotted that possible gun suspect, Griffin said.

Police did not identify the young men involved, but attorney Ronald S. Haley Jr. said in a statement that his two clients, 16-year-old twins, Gerard and Jabari Celestine, were the ones confronted by officers.

The responding officers handcuffed Jabari as he and his brother were waiting outside to enter the bowling alley and observing COVID-19 safety measures, according to their attorney.

“When officers arrived, they immediately handcuffed Jabari and read him his rights,” Haley said in the statement.

“At that time, Gerard inquired with the police as to why his brother was being arrested. In response, officers pushed Gerard to the ground and began brutally beating him, as evidenced by the videos of the encounter.”

Gerard was charged with interfering with a police investigation, resisting arrest, and battery of a police officer, while his brother Jabari was released without charges, Haley said.

The twins were not armed, according to Haley.

Lafayette police said the first teen they encountered was cooperative as officers patted him down for a weapon. But then a second teen “may have approached” the officers and “got into their personal space,” according to Griffin.

“Then it turned physical,” Griffin said. “I’m not going to go into details of who swung first or anything like that.”

Local police know the twins from previous encounters, Haley said.

“At this time we are vigorously pursuing justice for our clients, who we strongly contend are victims of racial profiling and systemic racism at the hands of Lafayette police,” Haley said. “To start, we want the police department to release all information and body cam footage pertinent to the events of last Saturday evening.”

In a statement to NBC News on Thursday, the police department confirmed that Saturday’s incident is under internal investigation and that one officer has been placed on administrative leave and the other two officers have been temporarily pulled from their regular duties.

Representatives for the local police union could not be immediately reached, via email or phone, on Friday for comment on behalf of the officers involved.