Louisiana state troopers and sheriff’s deputies dragged a Black man out of his car and beat him viciously during a May 2019 traffic stop in the man’s driveway.
A swarm of officers punched and kicked Aaron Bowman outside his Monroe, Louisiana, home. And one state trooper beat him over the head with a flashlight 18 times in 24 seconds.
“When I turned in my yard, I opened the door,” Bowman said during a press conference last month. “Before I could get out the car and put it in park, they snatched me out the car. When he snatched me out by my arm, he threw me to the ground and told me to “Shut up!”
Now, in a federal lawsuit alleging excessive force, Bowman cites damages to him as: assault and battery, infliction of mental and emotional distress, outrageous conduct, and false charges that deputies filed against him days after the beating.
Bowman’s attorneys originally filed his petition in Ouachita Parish District Court on Sept. 21. The complaint was moved to U.S. District Court on Oct. 26.
Unidentified Louisiana state troopers, University of Louisiana Monroe police officers, Ouachita Parish sheriff’s deputies and Monroe police officers were listed as defendants in the filing. The suit also named Ouachita Parish Sheriff Jay Russell, the city of Monroe, Ouachita sheriff’s deputy Donovan Ginn, the Monroe Police Department, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety, and the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System.
The unknown Louisiana state trooper was identified last month as 30-year-old Jacob Brown. Brown, an officer for Troop F in Monroe, was arrested Dec. 10 and charged with second-degree battery and malfeasance.
Bowman’s attorneys have likened his beatdown to another Black man’s deadly encounter with state troopers from the same unit. Ronald Greene, 49, was also beaten with a flashlight following a police chase just three weeks before Bowman’s run-in with officers from Troop F. Greene died while being rushed to a hospital. State police initially claimed he died upon impact after crashing his car during the high-speed pursuit that preceded troopers assaulting him.
“How in the hell does Troop F kill Ronald Greene, and then damn near kill Aaron Bowman in the same manner 21 days later?” Ronald Haley, one of Bowman’s attorneys told Atlanta Black Star. “I mean, the same Troop F kills a Black man partially to do with beating him in the head with a flashlight. And then they do the same s–t 21 days later. That’s ridiculous.”
The Louisiana State Police Bureau of Investigations did not begin investigating use-of-force claims against Brown until after Bowman’s lawsuit was filed.
“As the investigation continued, detectives learned that Brown engaged in excessive and unjustifiable actions during the incident and failed to report the use of force to his supervisors,” said a statement from the State Police announcing his arrest.
Brown was placed on administrative leave upon his arrest, according to LSP.
“The public trust and responsibility bestowed upon us as law enforcement professionals is of the utmost importance,” Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Lamar Davis said in the statement. “We owe not only the public we serve, but also the dedicated men and women of our department a just and timely response.”
According to the civil lawsuit, Bowman noticed a police vehicle trailing him to his house on May 30, 2019. When Bowman pulled into his driveway, deputies swarmed in behind him. Deputy Donovan Ginn and an unknown number of other officers began questioning him and snatched Bowman from his vehicle.
They dragged him to the ground, beat, kicked and pummeled him, the lawsuit indicates. Bowman sustained a fractured arm, broken ribs, and a cut to the top of his head that required several stitches.
No drugs or weapons were found in the vehicle.
Louisiana Department of Public Safety filed a 22-pronged answer to Bowman’s lawsuit on Oct. 29, denying the gist of his claims. Attorneys for the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office argued it was Bowman whose behavior was negligent during the incident in a motion to dismiss the claim. On Dec. 2, the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System on behalf of the University of Louisiana Monroe Police Department. The Board cited officers’ qualified immunity as a defense and claimed they didn’t violate Bowman’s constitutional rights. The filing argued university police had probable cause for all actions they took against him.
“The referenced officer or officers at all times acted as allowed by law and within the performance of their discretionary functions,” the response stated.
All of the officers involved are members of Ouachita Parish’s Special Crimes Apprehension Team, or SCAT, a multi-jurisdictional undercover unit that patrols high-crime areas targeting drug dealers and gang activity.
The complaint alleges “unreasonable, unnecessary,” and negligent behavior from the officers involved and claims they could have used “verbal judo” and other tactics to de-escalate the situation.
Bowman was not never formally charged, according to his attorneys. But Ginn obtained an arrest warrant for him three or four days after the incident, the lawsuit states.
But according to Bowman’s lawyers, Ginn lied in his police report, accusing the man of being the aggressor when Ginn and other officers beat him. Bowman’s girlfriend, Teresa Criff, and her daughter witnessed the brutal attack, which was captured on Bowman’s security camera. They claimed Bowman never provoked the attack by resisting officers or failing to comply with their demands. Surveillance footage showed an officer punching Bowman repeatedly while he was on the ground.
Bowman had to be rushed to St. Francis Medical Center to be treated for his injuries.
“I heard my girlfriend in the background yelling, ‘Aaron don’t fight back. What’s wrong?’ ” he explained during a Dec. 14 news conference on the steps outside the Louisiana State Capitol. “And every time I got up to speak, he would hit me with the flashlight.”
Bowman broke down while detailing the ordeal. He was flanked by his legal team, local members of the NAACP and a throng of supporters.
“This is the emotion that a community is feeling,” said Dedrick Moore, one of his attorneys. “To be beaten, to not be respected, to not be given the rights that are bestowed upon them just like any other citizen in the state.”
He added, “This is our cry, but this is a literal cry for justice right now.”
During the news conference, Bowman and company called for Brown’s termination and demanded the immediate release of bodycam footage from the incident. Ronald Haley, one of the other attorneys involved in the lawsuit, said state police hasn’t even let Bowman view the video of Brown striking him.
According to the Advocate, Brown tried to hide the footage from his supervising officers. The trooper is the son of former state police assistant superintendent Bob Brown, Louisiana State Police’s ex-chief of staff who retired from the force last year.
Haley and Moore compared Bowman’s case to the death of Ronald Greene.
Greene’s family filed a wrongful death federal civil rights lawsuit. Troopers attempted to pull Greene over near the University of Louisiana Monroe on May 10, 2019. The man didn’t stop and a chase ensued that lasted at least 20 miles. Greene eventually veered off road and crashed his SUV into a ditch before striking a shrub tree. According to his family’s lawsuit, Greene was beaten, shocked multiple times with a stun gun and “brutalized” during a violent encounter with troopers after the crash. He died of cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital, and his death was ruled accidental by the coroner’s office.
But in October 2020, the Associated Press released an audio clip of Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth, one of the troopers involved; in the clip, there’s talk of choking and beating Greene. Hollingsworth is heard telling someone he “beat the ever-living f—” out of the man in the 27-second clip.
“We finally got him in handcuffs when a third man got there, and the son of a b—– was still fighting him, was still wrestling with him trying to hold him down,” Hollingsworth said. “He was spitting blood everywhere and all of a sudden he just went limp.”
Hollingsworth was killed in a single-car crash last September just hours after finding out he would be fired for his involvement in the 2019 incident.
Bowman’s attorneys seek the public release of that bodycam footage as well to help bolster their civil case.
“We know what happened, but we have not seen the visual of it,” Haley said. “We want a full investigation into Troop F of the Louisiana State Police as to why officers are allowed to maim and kill Black people and allowed to stay on the job 19 months, two years after the fact. With the badge, full benefits, with the ability to keep on violating folks’ civil rights. Why does it take so long for these folks to be held accountable for things that seem very obvious? It was very obvious to me when I saw the Ronald Greene video that something was wrong. It is very obvious to me, based on the injuries of Aaron Bowman and the fact that he was not formally prosecuted with any crime, that that was absolutely excessive.”