Louisiana civil rights activists want a state probation officer fired after video surfaced that allegedly shows him planting drugs on a Black man.
McKinley Bates III was charged with several drug and weapons felonies and faced 10 years in prison. He spent three months behind bars awaiting trial. But after officials from the Concordia Parish District Attorney reviewed footage of the alleged misconduct, prosecutors dropped charges against Bates.
In January 2020, Bates filed a federal lawsuit against Lane Normand, the Louisiana probation and parole officer he alleges fabricated damning evidence against him.
“It is beyond me how this guy is still working and not arrested because he would have had to do two things to get to this point,” said Eugene Collins, president of the Baton Rouge chapter of the NAACP. “We’ve got the video of him planting drugs; that’s clear. And then he had to perjure himself on the stand. He should be in jail, but he’s still actively somebody’s probation officer. It’s almost unbelievable.”
Bates and a friend were sitting underneath a carport outside his father’s house playing chess the evening of Oct. 30, 2018. One of Bates’ three daughters and a young child were sitting beside the picnic table when Normand and a group of Concordia Parish sheriff’s deputies suddenly pulled up in unmarked cars. The officers swarmed the Ferriday, Louisiana, home, running up with weapons drawn.
Almost immediately, Bates took off running. He was the target of the raid. Bates had a parole warrant when officers spotted him sitting outside the home.
According to an arrest report that Normand authored, officers had to chase Bates for several blocks. The report claims he resisted arrest and Normand used an arm bar to tackle him to the ground. Another officer zapped Bates with a stun gun before they were finally able to handcuff him.
Normand claimed in his report that he smelled a heavy odor of marijuana and saw Bates stand up, reach into his pockets and toss a clear plastic baggie when officers initially arrived.
After he escorted Bates back to his father’s house, Normand said he found marijuana sitting in “plain view” on the picnic table and atop a washing machine under the carport.
Normand then searched the area where he claimed he saw Bates throw off the baggie, and found a clear plastic bag filled with multiple “Xanax bars,” the deputy alleged in his report.
Normand was not wearing a body camera, according to Bates’ lawsuit. But Bates’ father’s home was equipped with surveillance cameras that recorded the officer’s activity in the carport. The footage showed Normand combing through trash cans and other containers as Bates sat at the picnic table handcuffed next to another man.
The video showed Normand fishing through a small white trash bucket in the carport. He pulled several items out of the bucket. And as he was putting them back in, he removed something from his pocket and placed it in the bucket, Bates argued in his complaint. Normand reportedly recovered the bag of Xanax from the bucket.
Normand then removed everything from the top of the washing machine, threw it on the ground and searched through the items. He reportedly found more marijuana in that area.
While Normand indicated in his report that the drugs found on the washing machine were “in plain view,” the lawsuit claims a police officer stood next to the washing machine and the white bucket for 20 to 30 minutes and never noticed any narcotics.
Bates was charged with possession with intent to distribute schedule IV drugs, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and resisting arrest.
“His dad has surveillance cameras around the house, which is a common thing in the country,” Collins said. “So that’s how he was caught. If not for the dad’s cameras, who knows what would’ve happened?”
Normand found mail in Bates’ car with his name on it that was addressed to his father’s house. That formed the basis for a search warrant to raid the residence under the auspices that Bates lived with his dad.
Investigators seized guns and money from the home and tacked on a charge against Bates for unlawfully possessing a firearm as a felon. His dad protested, telling officers all the guns were his. Bates’ father later testified that he kept the weapons locked away and said his son hadn’t lived under his roof for 10 years prior to the 2018 raid. Normand later admitted that records showed he lived in Baton Rouge.
Bates alleged in his lawsuit that Normand and sheriff’s deputy Lt. John Cowan intentionally lied on the affidavit to obtain the search warrant. Cowan was added to the lawsuit as a defendant in an amended version of the complaint.
The DA’s office initially dismissed the guns and drug charges, but later dropped the resisting arrest charge as well. Bates was released from jail on Jan. 10, 2019.
Normand argued there was probable cause to arrest Bates and search his father’s home. The officer also claimed he had qualified immunity against civil action in a motion to dismiss the complaint. A federal judge denied Normand’s motion.
“They tried to get this guy (Bates) in jail,” Collins said. “They were trying to put him away. Fortunately, they were unsuccessful.”
Despite the allegations, Normand remains employed as a state parole and probation officer. Louisiana NAACP officials are pressuring officials from the Louisiana Office of Probation and Parole to terminate Normand. Collins said activists want Normand charged with a crime.
The organization is also mounting a push for state lawmakers to pass legislation that implements independent community oversight committees in cases of police abuse.
“To Lane Normand, he was just a black body that he assumed he could plant drugs on and get away with. There was no regard as to how it would impact him or his family,” a May 5 statement from the NAACP said. “Lack of oversight and accountability breeds this continued culture! Corruption within Law Enforcement is NOT a phenomenon; it’s SYSTEMIC!”