Three Louisiana cops caught on video restraining and repeatedly punching a Black 16-year-old during an arrest at a bowling alley are no longer on the beat while the department investigates.
The incident took place Saturday night outside Acadiana Lanes in Lafayette, shortly after a 911 call reported that someone in the vicinity was armed with a gun, according to the Lafayette Police Department. Sometime around 11:30 p.m., police arrived on the scene. The unidentified officers approached a pair of twin teenagers, later identified as Jabari and Gerard Celestine by their attorney Ron Haley Jr., as they were standing outside the bowling alley waiting to enter, as required by the state’s COVID-19 safety measures.
Though it’s still unclear what happened in the moments before onlookers started filming, Haley says one of the officers walked up to Jabari and began to read him his rights before placing handcuffs on him. His brother looked on and approached the officers, according to Haley.
On video, police are seen grabbing Gerard and taking him to the ground. In another video, two cops are seen restraining the teen as a third straddles him and throws punches to the teen’s back before placing handcuffs on him. At least two other cops are seen standing in front of the scuffle as onlookers scream and plead with the police to let the kid go. The officers carrying out the arrest then stand the teenager up and walk him toward a police vehicle. As the camera pans over to the vehicle, a second person, presumably Jabari, can be seen lying prone and handcuffed on the ground.
Jabari was released Sunday without any charges, according to Haley, but Gerard was charged with resisting arrest, interfering with an arrest, and battery of an officer. Police did not find a weapon on either of the brothers.
Video of Gerard’s arrest went viral on social media, sparking outrage and prompting local protests in Louisiana.
One of the officers has been placed on administrative leave while the other two have been pulled from active duty, according to Lafayette Police Chief Scott Morgan. The department has not said whether the officer on leave is still being paid.
“They’re boys,” Haley said during a press conference held in front of the Lafayette Police Department headquarters Monday. “They’re not threats. They are children. They are children morally, and they are children in the eyes of the law, and they should be protected as such.
Haley said his teenage clients have been targeted by the police at least three times this year prior to the arrest on Saturday. He called on the LPD to release bodycam footage of the arrest to the public, as well as the 911 call that brought police to the bowling alley that night.
“We want the 9-1-1 call in which one of the boys allegedly fit the description of someone who committed a crime,” Haley said during the press conference. “What was that description? What was he actually doing? Was that call actually made?”
This isn’t the first time a violent police incident in Lafayette has been thrust into the national spotlight. In August, Lafayette police shot and killed 31-year-old Trayford Pellerin after responding to a 911 call about a person wielding a knife in the area. Haley is also representing the Pellerin family. Pellerin’s death spurred days of protests from hundreds of residents throughout Louisiana.