Community meets to discuss use of Taser during arrest in Leesville

By By Lauren Manary / American Press

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.