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    We can not give in ‘to feelings of impotent rage,’ 100 Black Men say

    Through its president Michael Victorian, The 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge released the following statement Thursday morning following the U.S. Justice Department decision on the Alton Sterling case on May 3

    Baton Rouge (LA) Alton Sterling’s death is a tragedy. It is compounded further by the Justice Department’s decision not to bring charges against the officers involved in his death. We respect Alton’s life and mourn the loss to his family and friends. We also state, categorically, that Mr. Sterling’s life mattered. The lives of the young African-American men and women who we mentor, matter and 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge will continue to do everything within its power to help young people reach their full potential. The systematic conditions that led to Mr. Sterling’s tragic death must be met head on with love, compassion, and an unwavering determination to help make all of our communities safe and economically vibrant.

    We recognize that the findings released on yesterday are frustrating. However, we urge all people of goodwill to use this moment as a call for greater and more meaningful engagement. It is meaningful and constructive to vent, protest, and fully engage in the democratic process. However, we cannot give in, though, to feelings of impotent rage through acts of violence.  Such action will only endanger our community.

    We call on those who wish to improve the lives of people here at the corner of Fairfield and N. Foster Drive (Baton Rouge, LA) to get directly involved in dismantling injustice. Furthermore, we applaud the leadership of our East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome who early in her administration took steps to execute much needed reforms to the Baton Rouge Police Department, including these five policy changes:

    1.      Officers are required to give a verbal warning, before using deadly force, except where there are exigent circumstances.

    2.      Officers are required to de-escalate situations, when possible, before using force.  De-escalation strategies include disengagement, area containment, waiting out a subject, summoning reinforcements, calling in specialized units or employing other strategies.

    3.      Officers will not employ chokeholds or strangleholds, except in emergency circumstances where it is immediately necessary to use deadly force and the authorized weapons are inoperable, inaccessible or otherwise not available.

    4.      Officers are prohibited from discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle unless the vehicle or the persons within the vehicle pose an immediate deadly threat to others.

    5.      Officers will be required to intervene to prevent another officer from using excessive force and to immediately report when they observe the use of excessive force by another officer

    In order for these policies to have their intended effect, the Baton Rouge Police Department and its leadership must take active measures to ensure that those officers that do not comply with these policies will face serious significant discipline

    The 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge is committed to continuing to engage our youth and families to strengthen our community. We hope that area citizens will answer this call to a crisis and set an example to the nation and the world as they watch.

    One Hundred Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge, LTD. is a non-profit organization through which African-American males step forward and assume roles of community leadership, responsibility, and guidance.  Michael Victorian currently serves as the president and chairman of the board.

     

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    Urban League supports investigation by Louisiana Attorney General, state police in Alton Sterling case

    The Urban League of Louisiana released this official statement regarding the Alton Sterling decision, May 3:

    The world is watching. Our community is on high alert. Tensions are high. Hearts are broken.  And “justice” continues to evade us. 

    For ten months, the family of Alton Sterling has patiently waited to learn about the fate of Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake, the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) officers involved in their loved one’s murder. Yesterday, the family and the rest of the world learned through an article published by the Washington Post that the officers would face no federal civil rights charges. The Sterling family deserved to be notified directly by the Department of Justice long before this decision became front-page news in a national media outlet.

    Many have become desensitized to police shootings, and do not feign shock when officers are not held accountable.  Instead, it’s chalked up to flaws in the system. However, we must confront the real criminal justice reform that’s needed in this country so that our laws do more to actually provide justice rather than shield those with the greatest responsibility to the public from the law. It is incumbent upon us to give our voices and our votes to the continuing battle for equity and justice.  As the Sterling family said today, the battle is not over; it has only just begun.

    While bitterly disappointing, the DOJ’s announcement comes as no surprise. According to Kelley et. al, (2016) charges are filed in only one percent of fatal shootings involving police. [1] This precedent equates to government sanctioned murder, a status quo the community and the Urban League at large is simply unwilling to accept. So, now all eyes are on Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who has released a statement announcing that the Louisiana State Police will launch its own investigation into the conduct of the officers and the appointment of a special prosecutor who will determine if officers Salamoni and Lake will face criminal charges by the state. While the Urban League fully supports this step, we will be vigilant in our commitment to ensure that a fair and neutral process is conducted in the pursuit of justice for Alton Sterling, his family, and the city of Baton Rouge. We also encourage the BRPD to examine the conduct of these officers to determine if it meets the expectations of the departments’ standard of professionalism. Based on new details released in today’s press conference by the Sterling family and their attorneys, it appears that there may be grounds for the officers’ termination.

    ULLA is actively involved in advocating for criminal justice reform and is encouraged by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s work to establish new policies within the BRPD regarding use of force guidelines. The League is continuing to pursue its own reform-centered, criminal justice policy agenda, which includes a push for expanded trainings on de-escalation, bias police recognition, crisis intervention, and other pertinent issues.[2] The cost to implement these trainings is far less than the cost of losing a life, settling civil suits, and losing public trust. By providing the law enforcement community with this training, those who are entrusted with securing our public safety will have the tools to execute their role more effectively and safely.  We are also reigniting our call for the establishment of an independent, civilian review board or an independent agency to monitor excessive force complaints, officer-involved shootings and fatal force incidents in East Baton Rouge.

    For the past five months, ULLA staff has convened hundreds of community members including law enforcement officials, youth, young professionals, community leaders and a cadre of African American residents in East Baton Rouge to facilitate dialogues generating community-based solutions to address public safety and community-police relations. The League surveyed approximately 200 East Baton Rouge residents about their perceptions and experiences with police. Over 60% of respondents indicated that police do not treat all citizens equally according to the law, 67% agreed that the police do not make enough contact with residents and about 80% indicated that they want police to partner with community members and groups to solve problems in their communities. The Urban League of Louisiana is committed to working with the community to develop partnerships with law enforcement to bring about the necessary change.

    The world is watching. Our hearts are broken, but our resolve is strong. And we will not stop our fight until the status quo is transformed into justice for all.

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    Police ‘use of force’ changes, new policies recommended to take effect immediately

    To fulfill her commitment to close the gap between law enforcement and the community, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome has been meeting with law enforcement officials and community leaders over the past several weeks.

    As a result of this collaborative effort, the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Law Enforcement and Community Service and Protection is recommending policy changes occur within the Baton Rouge Police Department that align with national best practices surrounding use of force.

    “We believe that the implementation of these policy changes will enhance existing BRPD policies and compliment academy and in-service training,” Broome said.

    The following are the agreed upon policy changes. These changes in policy will take place immediately.

    · Officers are required to give a verbal warning, before using deadly force, except where there are exigent circumstances.
    · Officers are required to de-escalate situations, when possible, before using force.  De-escalation strategies include disengagement, area containment, waiting out a subject, summoning reinforcements, calling in specialized units or employing other strategies.
    · Officers will not employ chokeholds or strangleholds, except in emergency circumstances where it is immediately necessary to use deadly force and the authorized weapons are inoperable, inaccessible or otherwise not available.
    · Officers are prohibited from discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle unless the vehicle or the persons within the vehicle pose an immediate deadly threat to others.
    · Officers will be required to intervene to prevent another officer from using excessive force and to immediately report when they observe the use of excessive force by another officer.

    The Mayor’s Advisory Council on Law Enforcement and Community Service and Protection include:  Fr. Rick Andrus, Rev. Robin McCullough-Bade, Broderick Bagert, Attorney Alfreda Tillman Bester, Constable Reginald Brown, Renee’ Brown, Gary Chambers, Councilman Lamont Cole,  Kelvin A. Cryer, Chief Carl Dabadie, Mark Dumaine,  Cleve Dunn Jr., Col. Mike Edmonson, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, Casey Hicks, Pastor Donald Hunter, Josh Howard, Mary Jane Marcantel,  E.J. Milton, Michael A.V. Mitchell, Tonja Myles, Rev. Reginald Pitcher, Joyce Plummer, Arthur Reed,  Dereck Rovaris PhD, Michael W. Victorian, Pastor Charles Wallace, Pastor Lee T. Wesley, and Katara Williams Ph.D.

                                                                                                        

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    N.O. Mother pens book hoping to help others whose sons were killed by police

    When Delzorah Barnett first learned that her son had been shot and was in the hospital clinging to his life, she nearly had a panic attack. When she later learned that he was shot multiple times by officers with the Atlanta Police Department and that he more than likely wouldn’t make it, it took everything in her to not die in the hospital with her first-born child.

    “When I arrived (to the hospital) and began to get the details from my nephew, who was shot by the guys who caused the confusion that lead to officers showing up and killing my son, I was broken internally. I continued to pray,” said Barnett, a New Orleans native. “I did not know how to feel, so I began to get information from each witness individually and then I realized that the officers just ran up and opened fire and did not stop until my son was on the ground, and then one of them shot him again.”

    Her family gathered at the hospital every day to pray for her son, 30-year-old E. Zaus Barnett, and he started to get a little better. He eventually was able to tell her what happened. Most importantly, he said he never raised a gun to the officers.

    image

    E. Zaus Barnett,


    Unfortunately, her son never got well enough to leave the hospital and eventually died several weeks after the shooting. The two officers who shot him were never charged.

    “That was so, so painful to the point that I really did not think I would live, but I did. I put all my hope and faith in my Father God, and he guided my path to be strong for my other children, family and friends, to stand for justice in a peaceful manner and to encourage and empower others,” Barnett said.

    That tragic incident propelled Barnett, who goes by Mz. WORTHit, to turn her pain and anger into action. She now inspires women to know that they are WORTH (Women of Righteousness, Truth and Honor) it and started a nonprofit organization, Justice from A 2 Zaus. The organization stands against gun violence, excessive force and police brutality while promoting male mentorship and hosting positive response summits for young males in New Orleans, Atlanta and Fayetteville, N.C. She also wrote a book, The Darkness of the Aftermath Transformed to Light, that help restore her after the death of her son and that she is hoping will help heal the nation.

    “My book was written to heal the hearts of those who have lost loved ones and (to help them) understand that revenge or retaliation is not the answer, but forgiveness, trusting God—who is the final judge—and helping others to bring about change is the answer for any of us,” Barnett said.  “My book shows that life does bring pain, but we must become more connected to God, and then we can know how to fight, have peace and continue to love.”

    Barnett recognizes the destruction of the relationships between law enforcement and communities across the country with the international spotlight being on the deaths of people of color at the hands of police, but says it’s not too late to change the narrative.

    “I believe that we must get to the root of the problem, and that is that the justice system must be reassessed. We must make sure that justice is served across the board, regardless of status, race, title or position of a person,” she said. “We must become a society that desires life over death and holds every person accountable who does not consider saving lives. All law enforcement officers are not shooting to kill, therefore we must face the truth that there is a group of officers who apparently have a serious issue with males of color, and they use the ‘I felt my life was in danger’ (justification) when that is really not the case.”

    Barnett said she believes that healing begins with forgiveness and then taking the necessary steps to bring about change. She said

    even though she is pushing for peace, she is also pushing for communities to fight for what is right.

    “We cannot stop marching peacefully; we cannot stop being involved with organizations that are dealing with the real problems and bringing it to the right people. We must vote, show up at city council meetings, keep teaching our children to do right, get an education and become politicians, law enforcement officers and hold positions where we can be the change.”

    Her son’s untimely death thrust her into philanthropy. Justice from A 2 Zaus and her women’s group have helped countless people across the country. Her podcast “Positive Male Response and Inspirational Conversation with Mz. WORTHit” has inspired numerous young people. However, Barnett is just getting started.

    She is gearing up to do even more to help the nation heal. She urges parents who have lost children due to gun violence or police brutality to never give up.

    “You must call on God and heal and then fight from a place of victory that will impact and encourage others that love and peace will always overpower evil. I know they will, because I walk from a place of victory with peace, love and faith, and God has changed the lives of many through me,” she said. “He has lifted the hearts and minds of many through me, and He is changing situations through me, so if he can do it for me, he will do it for you!”

    Barnett has given copies of her book to parents who have lost their children in similar ways. 

    ONLINE: mzworthit.com
    ONLINE: a2zaus.com 

    Read more »
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    Richard promoted to peace officer

    Slidell police officer Christopher Richard has been promoted to administrative corrections peace officer in the Slidell Police Department’s Corrections Division. He is a 10-year veteran and has been a field training officer, training new jailors at the Slidell police department. He was the Corrections Officer of the Year in 2011, was awarded a Letter of Commendation in 2012, and was awarded a unit Citation in 2015.  He had 11 years of experience with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office as a corporal prior to joining the Slidell department. 

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    Legislators say they will closely monitor Joe McKnight killing

    Louisiana Senators Troy Carter and JP Morrell, along with State Rep. Rodney Lyons, who all represent Jefferson Parish, released this statement on killing of Joe McKnight during a road rage incident earlier thi

    s week.

    In this divisive, racially-charged environment, which is in no way unique to our community, we fully appreciate and share in the public’s concern over the killing of Joe McKnight.

    We are monitoring the investigation closely to see that it is thorough and transparent, and ultimately, that justice is done in accordance with the law. We are working closely with local law enforcement, state law enforcement, and oversight agencies.

    We will continue to advocate for all of the people of Jefferson Parish who we represent. Our prayers are with the family of Joe McKnight, because violence is never the answer. The laws of the land shall prevail and the Jefferson Parish Delegation of the Louisiana Legislature will be monitoring this matter closely.

    State Senator JP Morrell, District 3
    State Senator Troy Carter, District 7
    State Representative Rodney Lyons, District 87

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  • Shooting at SU did not involve students

    Campus secure, University expecting large crowd for gameday and high school event

    The Southern University Police Department and the Baton Rouge Police Department continue to investigate a shooting incident that occurred on the Southern University Baton Rouge campus Thursday evening Nov. 17. The campus is secure and the University is committed to providing a safe living and learning environment for its faculty, staff, students, and visitors. SUPD is asking the SU community to remain alert and cautious and to report any suspicious activity or any information that may be related to the shooting.

    SUPD confirmed that a 19-year-old male victim critically injured during the shooting incident was treated on the scene by emergency personnel and was transported to a local hospital where he remains. SUPD detectives and the SU Police Department arrested Larry McCray, 20, of Reserve, Louisiana, as a suspect in connection with the shooting. SUPD reports neither the victim nor the suspect is a Southern University student.

    The University is looking forward to hosting, this Saturday close to 2000 prospective students for our annual Jaguar Preview High School Day. The SU Jaguars will salute senior student-athletes in the last home game for the season in A.W. Mumford Stadium, kick off at 4 p.m.

    A team of staff and volunteers are ready to assist visitors, guests, and fans arriving and leaving the campus for events. As always, gameday on the Bluff will be safe and secure with law enforcement officers assisting with traffic and parking and security.

    The University held a press conference today in the A.W. Mumford Fieldhouse to provide an update from SUPD and the Baton Rouge Police Department, and campus leaders

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    System Broken: Can effective criminal justice reform come to La?

    In Louisiana, nearly 4 in 10 inmates released from prison are back behind bars within three years, and the state is spending more than $700 million annually on this broken system.  Organizers of a Criminal Justice Reform Summit said legislators, thought leaders, and others can lead Louisiana to adopt a more just and effective criminal justice system. During the summit, the public and these leaders will learn more about how reforms around the country can be effective within Louisiana’s criminal justice system to lower costs while increasing public safety.

    The summit will be Nov. 17 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baton Rouge.  Topics on the agenda include:

    • Justice Reinvestment: What it is and Why it’s Critical
    • Cost Saving and Reducing Crime: Proven Successes and Testimonials
    • Linking Workforce Needs and Re-Entry: Unique Employer Challenges and Realistic Solutions

    Panelists include:

    • Jay Neal, interim executive director, GA Criminal Justice Coordinating Council
    • Stephanie Riegel, editor, Baton Rouge Business Report
    • Representative Greg Snowden, MS Speaker Pro Tempore
    • Ian D. Scott, vice president – communications and networks, Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
    • Senator Danny Martiny, LA State Senate
    • Terrence Williams, Kia technician, Premier Automotive
    • Stephen Waguespack, president & CEO, LABI
    • Secretary Jimmy Le Blanc, LA Department of Public Safety & Corrections
    • Sheriff Beauregard “Bud” Torres III, Point Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office
    • Judge William J. “Rusty” Knight, 22nd Judicial District Court
    • John Hightower, vice president, East Region, Premier Automotive / Premier Collision Centers
    • Dennis Schrantz, director, Center for Justice Innovation, Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations
    • Bryan Kelley, executive relations manager, TX Prison Entrepreneurship Program
    • James M. Lapeyre Jr., president, Laitram LLC
    Read more »
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    City Parish, DoJ host community conversations on policing

    The City of Baton Rouge Parish of East Baton will host community conversations to discuss and review police policy on Nov. 1 and Nov. 3 at 6pm in the Raisin Cane’s River Center, Exhibition Hall, meeting room 9.

    Organizers said the public will provide recommendations for a community action plan. Discussions will be led and facilitated by Synthia Taylor, regional director for the Department of Justice Community Relations Service –Southwest Region.

    “This is an opportunity to enhance community relations and develop more resources as we strive to continue to improve community policing,” said Mayor Kip Holden. “We welcome the public’s input on these very important topics.”

    Topics include community policing, police accountability, body cameras, police civil service rules as well as training, recruitment, retention, residency requirements, and pay incentives.

    For more information, call (225) 389-3100. Register at https://ebrcommunityconversation.eventbrite.com.

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    Six BR deputies cleared in shooting death of Travis Stevenson

    “The death of Travis Stevenson was legally justified and no criminal responsibility can be found for the deputies involved as they were legally exercising their rights of self-defense and defense-of-others,” states an official report by the District Attorney’s office.

    According to DA Hillar C. Moore III, an investigation has cleared six deputies of any wrongdoing for the Feb. 23, 2016, death of Stevenson.

    East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s deputies general detectives Sgt. Charles Montgomery and Det. Shannon Broussard, homicide detectives Sgt. Scott Henning and Cpl. Chris Masters and uniform patrol deputies Lt. Michael Birdwell and Sgt. Verner Budd from the Gardere substation were on the scene when the shooting happened. They were placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure, following the incident.

    Reports state Stevenson repeatedly rammed a deputy’s patrol vehicle after officers blocked his car in a parking spot next to an apartment building at the corner of Terrace Avenue and Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive, East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said. Deputies tried to pull Stevenson from his vehicle, smashing a car window in the process, before deputies shot him, Gautreaux said.

    Dr. William “Beau” Clark, the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner, said Stevenson died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head and torso. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

    “Four of the responding deputies discharged their firearms,” states the report. “Stevenson was struck several times, resulting in his death. The incident was not recorded on any dash cameras or body cameras. Furthermore, there is no video of this incident known to law enforcement.”

    Louisiana State Police investigators from Hammond oversaw the investigation.

    This case is one of four officer-involved shooting deaths that occurred within East Baton Rouge Parish in 2016.

    ONLINE: Read the official report here.

    Read more »

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    Protesters, leaders vow: ‘We will not destroy or burn down our community’

    Alton Sterling’s death has inspired nationwide protests backed by thousands of Americans who want to end police brutality and the unremitting laws that seem to protect those who are employed to serve and protect citizens.

    Sterling’s name is being called by people all over the world who are partaking in public demonstrations, rallies, and protests seeking justice for his death and that of Philando Castile, Dylan Noble, and others who were killed by police officers. With the continued efforts being taken to protest, many people are optimistic about the possibility of justice being served this time around, but what happens if the verdict isn’t in favor of the victims? How will supporters feel? Will the public outcry lead to a volatile response from protesters? In Baton Rouge, leaders are extending a strong message to citizens currently fighting for justice and against police brutality. They are saying, with microphones in hand and in casual conversations, “Rioting and looting aren’t effective forms of retaliation. We will not destroy Baton Rouge.”

    In the past, America has seen the devastating aftermath and retaliation from outraged protesters and residents following seemingly “unjust” verdicts. Many of the most highly publicized officer-involved shootings have resulted in non-indictments, non-guilty verdicts, and dropped charges.

    Despite facing incriminating evidence and unedited videos of their attacks, overly aggressive—and often violent—police officers have managed to walk away from cases with judges ruling in their favor. Instead of serving time, these officers end up getting a slap on the wrist or a severance package to move on with their lives. Only to be met with violent uproar within the communities left on the other side of justice.

    Local community leaders and elected officials have stepped into what could’ve been riotous moments during the protests following Sterling’s killing and deescalated situations in an effort to keep peace. With emotions and tensions at it peak, these leaders say they aren’t personally concerned about the possibility of local looting, but some residents are.“I don’t have a concern about looting, but I’m a business owner and a property owner so, I do know other business and property owners may be worried about those possibilities because they aren’t as close to the situation as I am,” said businessman Cleve Dunn Jr.

    Cleve Dunn Jr

    Cleve Dunn Jr

    “(Baton Rouge has) done things differently from a lot of other places around the country because we’ve had the opportunity to learn from the lessons and previous mistakes other communities have made and observed that if you tear your community up, once national media leave and professional protesters leave, we’re left to deal with the aftermath.”

    To that, Black leaders throughout the city stress the importance of refraining from destroying the community, saying the aftermath would be detrimental to the advancement of the community.

    “Destructive protests do not accomplish anything because generally our people are the ones who hurt the most from it,” said Doris Gaymon, 64, a lifelong resident of North Baton Rouge. “We tend to destroy our own areas and properties and it defeats the purpose of the message we hope to send. In many cases, the areas destroyed are not insured and total destruction on those locations have made owners apprehensive about rebuilding in the impacted areas due to fears of repeated destruction.”

    For Gaymon, Sterling’s death is quite disheartening and many of the strikingly intense photos from recent protests mirror those from Civil Rights era demonstrations. The images and emotions signify the fight for equality and the ongoing battle against police brutality.

    “It appears we haven’t gotten beyond destruction,” she said.

    Gaymon remembers the 1972 rally at Southern University where Denver Smith and Leonard Brown were fatally shot by white deputies while protesting on campus. Although their protests weren’t centered around police brutality, they were fighting for a number of on-campus changes and the resignation of certain administrators.

    “The death of Alton Sterling has only culminated a deep-rooted problem that has been festering for many years. Hopefully, we, as a people, can understand that destruction does not resolve anything,” Gaymon said.

    In spite of all the horrific events Baton Rouge has experienced—including the shooting death of Sterling, attacks on peaceful protestors, and the deaths of three uniform officers—most residents agree emphatically that retaliation in the form of rioting and looting won’t relay the message of justice the community is hoping to send.

    “At every opportunity, you will hear leaders and residents all over saying, ‘We will not destroy or burn down our community!’,” said Dunn. “And we will not. This is ours.”

    By Meaghan Ellis
    Special to The Drum

    Originally published July 2016 in the print edition of The Drum

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    Baker man one of 42 prisoners released by President Obama

    On June 3, 2016, President Barack Obama granted commutation of sentences to 42 individuals.

    Cleon Jermaine Hawkins of Baker, LA, was the only Louisianan commuted this month. His 180 month imprisoment was scheduled to expire Oct. 1. Hawkins had been found guilty of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base and cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime by the Middle District of Louisiana.

     

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    Baton Rouge Police to offer Equalizer Women’s Self-Defense class

    The Baton Rouge Police Department is offering an Equalizer Women’s Self-Defense class. The free class will be held at the Baton Rouge Police Department Training Academy, 9000 Airline Hwy, 6 pm – 10pm. The course covers: facts about violence against women, reducing the risk of becoming a victim, defensive striking, common grab defenses, head-lock defenses, bear hug defenses, striking and knife defense and group escapes. The class is open to women over the age of 13. Participants should wear comfortable clothing suitable for physical activity. Participants must attend all 4 sessions to be certified.

    Class size is limited so participants should register early by following this link.

    Session 1

    Tuesday, August 18th

    Session 2
    Thursday, August 20th

    Session 3
    Tuesday, August 25th

    Session 4
    Thursday, August 27th

     

     

    Read more »
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    Family walks and 3,100 petition for justice

    Friends and Family of Lamar Johnson holds “Walk for Justice” in Downtown Baton Rouge

    On Monday, July 6, the family and friends of Lamar Alexander Johnson, led a peaceful protest in downtown Baton Rouge in response to the controversy surrounding Johnson’s death while in police custody.

    The 27-year-old’s death has sparked controversy about the series of events that led to his passing while being held at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

    Friends and Family of Lamar Johnson to “Walk for Justice” in Downtown Baton Rouge. (From Facebook page)[/caption]While the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office has claimed Johnson hung himself from his isolated jail cell, Johnson’s family and friends have insisted that this could not have been the case, especially considering Johnson believed he was being held for minor offense.

    IMG_2404Johnson, a father of three who was engaged to be married, was arrested on May 26 after an officer pulled him over for a window tint violation. According to the family, Johnson admitted to the officer that he had an outstanding 2011 warrant for what he believed, at the time, was a failure to appear for a traffic violation. On May 30, when the family tried to inquire about Johnson’s status, they were informed he was in the hospital, after prison officials said they discovered him hanging from his bed sheet in his cell. Johnson’s family said Lamar had no history of mental illness or depression.

    “Throughout the process, I stayed in touch with my son,” said Linda Johnson Franks, Lamar Johnson’s mother. “He kept assuring me that this was small potatoes and he’d either serve a few days or figure out how to pay whatever fines might be levied. This wouldn’t make sense in any situation, but especially if you knew Lamar. No way.”

    Johnson passed away on Sunday, June 10 from a total brain injury due to lack of oxygen.

    Friends and Family of Lamar Johnson to “Walk for Justice” in Downtown Baton Rouge. (From Facebook page)

    Friends and Family of Lamar Johnson to “Walk for Justice” in Downtown Baton Rouge. (From Facebook page)

    While the EBRSO said it conducted an internal review of the incident that confirmed their original story, the family has called for EBR city-parish officials to sanction an “uninterested, third-party investigation” into the series of events that led to Johnson’s injury. An online, Change.org petition started late last week calling for the same had 3,078 signatures at the time of this story.

    “We’re not making any accusations, we just want answers,” said Karl Franks, Lamar’s father. “And to get them, the investigated shouldn’t be conducting the investigation. That’s just common sense.”

    ONLINE: Change.org
    TWITTER: #JusticeforLamar
    FACEBOOK:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Justice-for-Lamar-Johnson/1116391165045014?fref=ts

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    Rep. Richmond calls for investigation into abusive practices of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office

    WASHINGTON, DCIn a letter sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond requested a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into alleged abusive patterns and practices of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office:

    “We can no longer allow the abusive culture that has permeated IPSO to go unchecked,” said Richmond who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee,. “The accounts of discrimination, abuse, and even deaths occurring as a result of the actions of deputies clearly illustrate a pattern and practice that systematically violates the basic rights of citizens. It is imperative that the Department of Justice step in and correct this conduct before there is any more loss of life.”

    “Just last year Victor White III– died as the result of a fatal gunshot wound while handcuffed in the backseat of an IPSO squad car. According to IPSO Deputies, Mr. White pulled out a handgun, while his hands were cuffed behind his back, and shot himself in the back. However, the full coroner’s report indicated that Mr. White had died from a single shot to his right chest, contradicting the initial police statement that he had shot himself in the back. This is just one example of the copious discrepancies that has plagued the office.”

    “Recent unrest in communities across the country have shed light on the fact that many people feel they have been unfairly targeted by police and forced to live their lives under the threat of an oppressive regime. The role our law enforcement officers fill is too important to the function of our society to allow this dynamic to go on unchecked.”

    The letter to Attorney General Lynch can be found here.

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  • CONSUMER ALERT: Don’t pay for a vacation to nowhere

    With school out and summer in, many Louisiana residents may be itching to get out of town for vacation. As consumers search for their perfect getaways, they may come across good-looking vacation rental deals that seem amazing.

    In an instance where a deal sounds too good to be true, that may be exactly the case. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell cautions consumers to beware of the vacation to nowhere.

    “Unfortunately, some ‘deals’ are advertised by scammers trying to steal your money,” Caldwell said. “They may offer unbelievable vacation destinations at what appear to be unbelievable prices, except that vacation to paradise may turn out to be a vacation to nowhere. It’s important to avoid wiring money, and to always research travel offers.”

    Scammers may create fake websites that look legitimate, using names and logos of real hotels. They might post gorgeous photos of homes and condos — real and fake — on property sharing sites. And they know they’ll get a consumer’s attention with super low rental prices.

    They might ask you to wire money to hold the rental — either a deposit or the full amount. But when you show up for your vacation, suitcases in hand, there’s a problem. Sometimes the rental property doesn’t exist. In other scams, the place you thought you booked wasn’t actually available. Either way, your money is gone, along with the hopes of a stress-free vacation.

    Here are some tips to help you avoid a vacation rental scam:

    • S
    • earch online for the owner and listing with words like review, scam, or complaint. You may find comments from others who have identified this listing as a rip-off. Another clue it may be a scam? If you find the same ad listedunder a different name or with different contact information.
    • Check that the address of the property really exists. And get a copy of the contract before you send any deposit money. If the property is located in a resort, call the front desk and confirm specific details about the location and the contract.
    • Consider using a credit card to book your rental. If there are any problems, you’ll get better protections that way. But whatever you do, don’t be pressured into wiring money. If a property owner requires payment via MoneyGram, Western Union or Green Dot cards, chances are, it’s a scam.

     

    Do you think you sent money to someone for a fake vacation rental? Report it by contacting the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 351-4889 or www.AGBuddyCaldwell.com. If you paid by credit card, get in touch with that company as soon as you can. And contact the fraud department of the website where you found the posting. You might not get your money back, but you can help others by getting the post removed.

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  • Nation Saw Record Number of Exonerations in 2014

    Report from National Registry of Exonerations Documents More than 100 Exonerations in a Single Year for the First Time

    The National Registry of Exonerations recorded 125 exonerations of innocent criminal defendants in 2014, the first time the Registry found more than 100 exonerations in one year, according to a report released today that analyzes trends in exonerations and details the work of the nation’s 15 prosecutorial Conviction Integrity Units.

    “The big story for the year is that more prosecutors are working hard to identify and investigate claims of innocence. And many more innocent defendants were exonerated after pleading guilty to crimes they did not commit,” said Michigan Law Professor Samuel Gross, editor of the National Registry of Exonerations and the author of the report.

    The states with the most exonerations in 2014 are Texas (39), New York (17), Illinois (7), Michigan (7), Ohio (6), North Carolina (4), Louisiana (3), Maryland (3), Oregon (3), Pennsylvania (3), and Tennessee (3). The states with the most recorded exonerations are not necessarily those where most false convictions have occurred.

    The Registry credits Conviction Integrity Units for contributing to the spike in exonerations: 34 more than the previous record of 91 exonerations in 2013.

    Read the report, Exonerations in 2014, at http://bit.ly/1C4YwIk

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