Video Source: Advocate Channel
(CNN) — The FBI in Louisiana has been asked to assist the Baton Rouge Police Department in its criminal and internal investigation after attorneys filed a second federal lawsuit against the department, several individual police officers and the city in connection with an alleged torture warehouse dubbed the “Brave Cave,” according to a complaint.
“The Baton Rouge Police Department is committed to addressing these troubling accusations and has initiated administrative and criminal investigations,” the police department said in a statement to CNN on Wednesday.
Police Chief Murphy Paul has asked FBI officials for their “assistance to ensure an independent review of these complaints,” the statement said.
The latest lawsuit was filed Monday in US District Court and says Ternell Brown, a Baton Rouge grandmother, was stopped by Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) patrol officers while she was in the car with her husband in June 2023. Brown was carrying two different types of prescription pills in the same container, “which she lawfully possessed,” it reads.
“Because BRPD officers deemed this behavior ‘suspicious,’ she was taken to BRPD’s black site, where she was forced to show officers that she was not hiding contraband in her vagina or rectum. After more than two hours, they let her go without charge,” the complaint states. Her husband was not taken to the Brave Cave, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges that the officers involved in the search were “not acting as rogue officers when they sexually humiliated Mrs. Brown; rather, they were simply carrying out official BRPD policy … (which) instructs officers that they may conduct these invasive strip searchers whenever they have ‘reasonable suspicion to frisk’ a detainee. Such a policy runs directly contrary to longstanding US Supreme Court jurisprudence.”
This latest lawsuit comes just over three weeks after Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome announced that Troy Lawrence Jr., one of the officers implicated in the black site operation, had resigned amid an investigation into the matter.
The mayor said she was previously unaware of the facility and had “directed Chief Paul to suspend all operations at the facility pending a thorough investigation by the BRPD.”
Investigation will take time, police chief says
The site, officially known as the Narcotics Processing Facility “has been permanently closed and the Street Crimes Unit Officers have been disbanded and reassigned,” according to the police department’s statement.
Lawrence served as the department’s Deputy Chief of Patrol Operations, according to the city website. He is named in two lawsuits filed regarding the Brave Cave.
CNN has reached out to attorneys for Troy Lawrence, the police union and others named in the lawsuit for comment but has not yet heard back.
In a lawsuit filed last month, Baton Rouge resident Jeremy Lee, 21, alleges he was taken to the warehouse on January 9, 2023, and beaten as the officers periodically turned their body cameras on and off.
Before being taken to the warehouse, Lee had been detained at a home “without reasonable suspicion or probable cause,” said the complaint. He was forced down in the middle of the street, his pants were pulled down so they could search him – in public – and officers grabbed his genitals. When he asked why he was being arrested, the officers refused to tell him why, according to the complaint.
Officers used “excessive force” resulting in injuries that led to a visit to urgent care where he was diagnosed with a “fractured left rib, chest pain, and left facial pain,” said the complaint.
Lee was charged with “resisting an officer,” according to the lawsuit – which indicates police didn’t provide a reason for his detention.
In a statement provided to CNN affiliate WBRZ, Chief Paul, who is among those named in the lawsuits, says the investigation will take time.
“I understand everybody wants to get it right, but investigations take time,” he said. “We’ve got to get it right, and sometimes I can’t give it to you right now. But I assure you there will be a thorough investigation.”
Jessica F. Hawkins, one of the attorneys representing both plaintiffs, said in a news release that she is “receiving calls daily from Baton Rouge residents who were taken to this black site and illegally strip searched. These instances of abuse need to be properly investigated and addressed and whoever carried out these atrocities needs to be held accountable.”
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