A Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper recently filmed aggressively arresting a Black motorist has been cleared of criminal conduct by two state review agencies. Investigators said they reviewed both video and audio of the incident and came to the conclusion the officer was within his rights to use force to detain a man, and later his two brothers.
On Friday, Aug. 12, officials from both the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation announced their finding on an excessive force claim between Trooper Hayden Falvey and Eugene Lewis, a Black man apprehended for speeding on a rural Schmidt Road near McComb, Mississippi, on Friday, Aug. 5.
Footage, filmed by Lewis’ relatives and posted on social media, shows Falvey pushing, placing the man in a chokehold, and wrestling him down in a ditch, all while the motorist is handcuffed.
The departments released a statement regarding their findings, recognizing the significant attention the incident received on social media and in the press.
“While DPS and MHSP recognize and respect the right of citizens to observe, and even record, law enforcement officers executing their duties, those rights are not without limitations,” Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell stated. “As you will see, this event is a prime example of how even a routine traffic stop can quickly turn into a dangerous situation for both citizens and law enforcement officers when subjects resist arrest and when uninvolved persons interfere.”
In the incident between Falvey and Lewis, while unpleasant to review, the actions were within Falvey’s scope as arresting personnel for the state, leading Lt. Col. Charles Haynes, director of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation to say, an “internal review of this matter revealed no evidence of excessive force.”
The encounter began when Lewis, who was speeding, zipped past some vehicles and was not wearing a seatbelt. Lewis sped through an intersection after the traffic light turned from green to yellow, Magnolia State Live reported.
A 39:43-minute video of the full altercation was published on the Mississippi Department of Public Safety’s Facebook page.
At the beginning of the video, both Falvey and Lewis are seen being cordial, at some points smiling and cooperative during the stop and initial engagement.
A report states Lewis was pulled over for speeding and allegedly committing other traffic violations, further stating Falvey claimed he smelled burnt marijuana from the car, and the suspect’s eyes were glassy and bloodshot.
The edited video seems to support this.
The officer asked Lewis, “Did you smoke some weed recently?”
He responded in the affirmative, saying he had about 45 or 60 minutes prior to the stop, to which Officer Falvey responded, “OK … not a big deal.”
After Lewis was stopped on Schmidt Road and it was assessed he had been smoking weed, it was discovered his driver’s license was suspended and he was driving without liability insurance.
The trooper tells him he is putting handcuffs on Lewis as a precautionary measure while he searches his SUV, iterating the man was not under arrest.
Falvey asked him a series of questions about possession of cannabis or harder narcotics being in the vehicle, and if he had ever been locked up. Lewis was forthcoming and said he had been arrested for selling cocaine and told Falvey there might be a “roach,” a street term for a burnt marijuana cigarette in the vehicle.
As the trooper was searching the vehicle, brothers Packer and Derrius Lewis drove up in a Dodge Charger. They parked and exited the car to see what was going on with their sibling.
After identifying themselves as Lewis’ brothers, they left the scene. Later they would return to record the altercation as it elevated to an arrest.
The encounter grows more tense, the video shows, and at some point, Lewis agreed with Falvey’s instruction to get in the police cruiser, but when the trooper initiated placing him in the car Lewis resisted. As a result, both officer and suspect tumbled into a ditch.
Lewis seems to still be resisting and Falvey takes his knees and legs to hold Lewis down and have access to his belt should the brothers rush him. Eventually, Falvey gets Lewis up and in the patrol car, buckling him in. Lewis begins cursing Falvey. In response, the trooper says, “I’m glad you feel that way, sir.”
One of the brothers taped another state trooper arriving at the scene and him walking toward the two with a weapon pointed at them before both were arrested.
The Associated Press notes the video and audio comes from various sources including some footage from the trooper’s patrol car, audio captured by the trooper on his bodycam, and video shot by the Lewis brothers.
After locking Lewis in the cruiser, Falvey is captured saying to the brothers they made a mistake by returning to shoot the encounter on video.
“Your brother is going to jail,” he remarked. “Now all of y’all are catching charges for your theatrics.”
Eugene and Derrius were released from the Pike County Jail on the night of the incident. Packer was held two days longer of a past charge on his criminal record.
Packer is facing nine charges because of the stop, including two counts of obstructing a public street, resisting arrest, failure to comply, no driver’s license on demand, seatbelt violation, expired tag, improperly displayed tag, and window tint violation.
Eugene Lewis is facing eight charges, and those are careless driving, seatbelt violation, disregard for traffic device, window tint violation, no proof of insurance, DUI other 1st offense, resisting arrest, and failure to comply.
The brother with the least charges is Derrius Lewis. He faces five charges, including resisting arrest, failure to comply, public drunkenness, and disturbing the peace.