MONROE, La. (AP) — Graphic body camera video kept secret for more than two years shows a Louisiana State Police trooper pummeling a Black motorist 18 times with a flashlight — an attack the trooper defended as “pain compliance.”
“I’m not resisting! I’m not resisting!” Aaron Larry Bowman can be heard screaming between blows on the footage obtained by The Associated Press. The May 2019 beating following a traffic stop left him with a broken jaw, three broken ribs, a broken wrist and a gash to his head that required six staples to close.
Bowman’s encounter near his Monroe home came less than three weeks after troopers from the same embattled agency punched, stunned and dragged another Black motorist, Ronald Greene, before he died in police custody on a rural roadside in northeast Louisiana. Video of Greene’s death similarly remained under wraps before AP obtained and published it earlier this year.
Federal prosecutors are examining both cases in a widening investigation into police brutality and potential cover-ups involving both troopers and state police brass.
State police didn’t investigate the attack on Bowman until 536 days after it occurred — even though it was captured on body camera — and only did so weeks after Bowman brought a civil lawsuit.
The agency did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the video.
Bowman’s beating was carried out by Jacob Brown, a white trooper who, before resigning in March, tallied 23 use-of-force incidents dating to 2015 — 19 of them targeting Black people, according to state police records.
Aside from the federal investigation, Brown faces state charges of second-degree battery and malfeasance in Bowman’s beating. He also faces state charges in two other violent arrests of Black motorists, including one he boasted about last year in a group chat with other troopers, saying the suspect is “gonna be sore” and “it warms my heart knowing we could educate that young man.”
On the night Bowman was pulled over for a traffic violation, Brown came upon the scene after deputies had forcibly removed Bowman from his vehicle and taken him to the ground. The trooper later told investigators he “was in the area and was trying to get involved.”
Wielding an 8-inch aluminum flashlight reinforced with a pointed end to shatter car glass, Brown jumped out of his state police vehicle and began bashing Bowman on his head and body within two seconds of “initial contact” — unleashing 18 strikes in 24 seconds, detectives wrote in an investigative report.
“Give me your f------ hands!” the trooper shouted. “I ain’t messing with you.”
Bowman tried to explain several times that he was a dialysis patient, had done nothing wrong and wasn’t resisting, saying, “I’m not fighting you, you’re fighting me.”
Brown responded with: “Shut the f—- up!” and “You ain’t listening.”
Bowman later can be heard moaning, still on the ground. “I’m bleeding!” he said. “They hit me in the head with a flashlight!”
Brown, 31, later said Bowman had struck a deputy and that the blows were “pain compliance” intended to get Bowman into handcuffs. Investigators who reviewed Brown’s video months after the fact determined his use of force was not reasonable or necessary.
Brown did not respond to several messages seeking comment.
Bowman, 46, denied hitting anyone and is not seen on the video being violent with officers. But he still faces a list of charges, including battery of a police officer, resisting an officer and the traffic violation for which he was initially stopped, improper lane usage.
Brown not only failed to report his use of force but mislabeled his footage as a “citizen encounter” in what investigators called “an intentional attempt to hide the video from any administrative review.”
Bowman’s defense attorney, Keith Whiddon, said he was initially told there was no body-camera video.
Robert Tew, the district attorney in Monroe, declined to discuss Brown’s case or anything to do with the state police. “We’ll see what the DOJ has to do,” he said during a brief interview outside his home.
Bowman himself hadn’t seen the footage until recently, when prosecutors from the U.S. Justice Department showed it to him and his civil attorney.
“I kept thinking I was going to die that night,” Bowman told the AP through tears in a recent interview. “It was like reliving it all over again. By watching it, I broke down all over again.”
“I don’t want nobody to go through that.”
Attorneys for Aaron Bowman released the following statement regarding the the body camera video:
"Footage of the terror and trauma that Aaron Bowman endured on that chilling May 2019 evening has finally been released to the public. Despite at least twenty-three previous use-of-force incidents over a short four-year period by Louisiana State Trooper Jacob Brown—nineteen of them against Black individuals—he was nevertheless permitted to patrol our streets and brutally attack Mr. Bowman, bludgeoning him over the head eighteen times with his heavy, aluminum department-issued flashlight. In addition to his catastrophic head injuries that required six staples to close, Mr. Bowman suffered a broken jaw, three broken ribs, and a broken wrist as a result of the senseless and state-sanctioned violence inflicted upon him by Trooper Brown."
"Though he was not party to the initial traffic stop, Trooper Brown’s hunger for the blood of Black citizens drew him to the scene where he leapt in to take Mr. Bowman down. Despite Mr. Bowmans’s desperate pleas and obvious compliance with the troopers, they persisted in their brutality, which they now appallingly refer to as “pain compliance.” Brown failed to report his use of force against Mr. Bowman, leading us to wonder how many other victims of his savagery are out there whose voices have not yet been heard."
"Additionally, Louisiana State Police seemingly could not be bothered to investigate the attack on Mr. Bowman until we filed our civil suit against them, even though the entire event was captured on troopers’ body cameras. This agency is entrusted with investigating use of force incidents by other police departments throughout our state, but it cannot even be trusted to investigate its own. Sadly, Mr. Bowman is only one of countless individuals who have been terrorized by state troopers. We ask for your continued prayers for Mr. Bowman as he is still suffering from the effects of this disturbing and terrifying event. We will be here fighting for him every step of the way."
The ACLU of Louisiana executive director Alanah Odoms issued the following statement regarding body camera footage:
"Hardly three months after the footage of Ronald Greene’s killing was released, we have yet another tragic example of the rampant misconduct that has plagued Louisiana State Police for decades. The repugnant and unnecessary beating of Aaron Bowman—and countless Black people at the hands of this agency—confirms what we’ve known for too long: it is time for the federal government to intervene and put an end to LSP’s vile pattern of unconstitutional brutality against Black people."
"The type of violence and corruption that Mr. Bowman has experienced is in line with a system of American policing that has harassed, brutalized, and murdered Black people since its inception, and it can no longer be swept aside. Aaron Bowman deserves justice, and our community members deserve transparency and accountability."
"In the absence of federal oversight, LSP will continue to put Louisianans at risk of constitutional rights violations. Only an independent, top-to-bottom investigation can ferret out the root cause of LSP’s wrongdoing and develop accountability mechanisms that can ensure these officers no longer engage in discriminatory and unconstitutional policing practices. The ACLU of Louisiana will fight relentlessly alongside Mr. Bowman’s attorneys Donecia Banks-Miley and Ron Haley to help win justice for him. We will not rest until there is justice for Aaron Bowman, Ronald Greene, and all other known victims of violence at the hands of Louisiana State Police."
In May 2021, the ACLU of Louisiana spoke to Mr. Bowman, along with the family of Ronald Greene, in a virtual event to amplify their calls for justice.
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