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Baton Rouge DA Drops Charges Against Unarmed Man Accused of Firing at Cop

The charges against a man accused of firing at a Baton Rouge police officer have been tossed, attorneys for the man announced Tuesday.

Raheem Howard, 21, was facing attempted murder and illegal use of a weapon charge related to an August 7 officer-involved shooting. According to Baton Rouge police, Officer Yusseff Hamadeh stopped Howard for a missing license plate, after which they say the young man fled.

Police say as Hamadeh chased him down, Howard fired a shot at the officer, prompting Hamadeh to return fire. No one was injured in the shooting.

On Tuesday, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III determined there was not enough evidence to charge the young man, citing bystander footage and “other evidence” as reasons for his decision not to proceed with the case.

According to The Advocate, Howard admitted to fleeing the scene but insists he never had a gun. Bystanders also recalled hearing only one gunshot. During the incident, Hamadeh’s body camera and dashboard camera were turned off, leaving little evidence of what actually happened that night.

“He didn’t have it. There was not evidence,” said Howard’s attorney, Ron Haley. “Because he didn’t have a gun, he didn’t fire a shot. And I think the suppression of the evidence by the cameras either malfunctioning or being willfully turned off only lends to that argument.”

This week, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said he plans to release limited footage from the shooting, including audio captured by the police vehicle’s rear camera and video recorded by a bystander, the newspaper reported. No video was captured by the officer’s rear vehicle camera, however, because it was facing upside down, Paul said.

The police chief initially was reluctant to release the footage, despite a new policy aimed at creating more transparency with the public following officer-involved incidents.

“We don’t believe that releasing it at this time will interfere [with the ongoing investigations],” he said Tuesday.

Howard no longer faces the $90,000 bond stemming from the first-degree attempted murder and illegal use of a weapon charge. He’s still being held at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on unrelated charges, however.

It’s unclear whether the young man will pursue legal action against the department, but his story has gained the support of groups like the National Black Police Association. According to WAFB 9, the group has expressed concerns about Hamadeh’s actions, specifically that his body camera was turned off.

“We acknowledge the difficulties of a police investigation into an officer-involved shooting—this one is particularly challenging, since Ofcr. Hamadeh did not have his body worn camera activated. … [With] Hamadeh’s history of now a second controversial police shooting, the NBPA, and the public, are concerned that the investigation into this matter is justly conducted,” the NBPA said in a statement.

“We will continue to monitor this situation closely, to ensure the fair and equitable administration of justice,” the statement later concluded.

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