Last Modified: Friday, February 14, 2014 10:51 AM
LEESVILLE — Community leaders and residents met in a church Thursday to discuss a weekend arrest by city police in which officers deployed a Taser multiple times to subdue someone who hadn’t paid for a meal.
Mayor Robert Rose issued a news release before the meeting, calling on the Police Department to investigate the incident. “Given the seriousness of the allegations that have been made concerning the conduct of the city’s police officers ... I believe this is the right thing to do,” he said in the statement.
Jeffrey Brown, 27, of Leesville, was arrested Feb. 8 after he and two friends tried to leave a diner without paying. They said the food hadn’t arrived after an hour, so they moved to leave. They were stopped by a security guard, who told them they had to pay or they would be arrested for theft.
Brown, an Army staff sergeant at Fort Polk, said Leesville police arrived and threatened to arrest him. He said he put his hands behind his back to be arrested and officers began hitting him with a Taser, knocking him to the ground.
He said police used the Taser on him at least five times, despite his complying with their instructions.
The meeting was called by Rosie Hackett, the mother of Dontel Hackett, who caught part of the arrest on his cellphone camera. She said the arrest and use of force could have been avoided.
“What took place Saturday, I didn’t like, and there’s going to have to be changes in Leesville,” she said at the meeting. “It doesn’t take just one person, though. It takes a whole community to make those changes.”
She said she invited Rose and council member Willie Mae Kennedy, who represents the district in which the meeting was held, but neither attended the meeting.
Attendees saw the two videos taken by Dontel Hackett that night. The first shows a police officer threatening to arrest Hackett if he did not go inside and pay for the food. The second video, which was viewed nearly 800 times on YouTube before being taken down, shows Brown lying face down on the ground and being hit with a Taser with two officers on him.
Lorenzo Gardner, a Leesville resident who attended the meeting, said the officers’ conduct was excessive.
“You’re out there, putting your life on the line defending this country, and the city police is treating you like this, it’s totally wrong,” he said to Brown at the meeting. “I hope that your officers in the Army do what they’re supposed to do and take care of their soldiers.”
Vernon Parish Police Juror Curtis Clay said he supported the gathering, and he expressed disappointment that the mayor didn’t attend and that only one City Council member attended.
“I think they were mistreated, just like y’all think,” he said. “I think they should get legal advice.”
Mayoral candidate Rick Allen and council member Micheal Elliott also voiced support for the group at the meeting.
Posted By: J On: 2/14/2014
They refused to pay for beverages that they consumed...specifics are EVERYTHING!!! Either way, it will be a he said she said...
Posted By: Jody Q On: 2/14/2014
I am thoroughly disappointed that anything like this occurred to begin with! After waiting for over an hour for a meal any patron should be able to get up and leave!!!! If I wait for more then 20 mins I leave. I will not pay for something I did not receive. Shame on the diner and shame on the police officers!!!