Four Louisiana police officers indicted in death of Black man with mental illness

Deborah Bayliss, Shreveport Times-Mon, September 21, 2020, 8:26 AM EDT

SHREVEPORT, La. — Four Louisiana police officers were indicted Friday in connection with the death of Tommie Dale McGlothen Jr., a Black man with a known mental condition who died at the hospital a short time after his detention and arrest by the officers.

The Caddo Parish Grand Jury returned indictments against four Shreveport Police Department officers, Treona McCarter, Brian Ross, D’Marea Johnson and James LeClare, who are charged with negligent homicide and malfeasance. McGlothen, 44, died on April 5 following an incident with a Shreveport homeowner.

According to Dr. Todd Thoma, the Caddo Parish Coroner, police arrived at the home after McGlothen blocked a driveway and followed a homeowner into his house. Police reported that McGlothen was ‘mumbling incoherently’ and ‘exhibiting signs of paranoia and emotional disturbance,’ the coroner said in a news release.

‘Police officers used Tasers, mace and nightsticks to control McGlothen, who was agitated and combative and had fought with a homeowner,’ according to the coroner.

Tommie McGlothen Jr. is pictured in this 2014 photo.
Tommie McGlothen Jr. is pictured in this 2014 photo.

Video of McGlothen’s arrest broadcast by KSLA which the station shot off of the cellphone of a person who the station said witnessed the altercation shows officers wrestling with a man on the ground, with at least one officer punching him repeatedly and another appearing to hit him with a baton. A voice can be heard saying that the officers were using a Taser on the man. The man can be seen kicking at police officers.

At one point police get the man to his feet with his hands appearing to be handcuffed behind him and he immediately falls or is pushed backward to the ground. After getting him up again, they then walk him over to the police vehicle, push him against it and his head hits the hood.

According to the coroner, McGlothen died of factors including ‘excited delirium’ but his death possibly could have been prevented and it should have been obvious ‘that he needed medical care.’ The coroner said McGlothen was left in the back of a police vehicle for 48 minutes before it was discovered that he was unresponsive and not breathing.

‘He was predominantly unsupervised during this entire period. After a violent confrontation with psychotic behavior, and being tased several times, a more thorough evaluation … would have been indicated,’ the coroner said.

The officers had, in fact, been notified of McGlothen’s mental condition during the first of three encounters with officers within a short time span. In each encounter, McGlothen exhibited signs he was a mental patient in need of medical treatment, according to information provided by the coroner’s office.

McGlothen’s family, with their attorney James Carter, held a Friday afternoon press conference thanking the Caddo Parish Grand Jury for returning indictments against four Shreveport Police Department officers in connection with McGlothen Jr.’s death.

“We are very, very grateful today to have you all come out to hear our response to the indictment that came down today,” Carter said. “We want to thank (Caddo) District Attorney James Stewart as well as his staff for committing to the impartial administration of justice in this matter.”

McGlothen Jr.’s case is one of many police brutality cases in this country and in this region, Carter said.

Carter added that he’s grateful to Stewart for convening the grand jury.

“We are very grateful and thankful to them for committing to impartial administration of justice in the indictment of the four officers involved in the untimely death of Tommie McGlothen Jr.,” Carter said. “I am so thankful to the citizens of this city as well as the McGlothen family. We see this as one small, but significant step in the ongoing pursuit of justice relative to Mr. Tommie McGlothen Jr.”

Community activist Breka Peoples, who first brought McGlothen’s case to light with her advocacy for justice for McGlothen and others, joined Carter and the family for the press conference.

“I want to thank the jury for the four indictments,” Peoples said. “I want to thank the family for coming together as one to fight for this. We still have a system that we have to fight in Shreveport that has to be destroyed and we have to destroy it. I’m happy that Tommie McGlothen and his family were able to get justice.”

Tommie McGlothen, III and Tommie McGlothen, Sr., attended the press conference thanking the grand jury and the district attorney’s office for the indictments.

Carter said he and the family are looking forward to a vigorous prosecution of this case by the district attorney’s office and that he’s also putting together a petition for damages against the City of Shreveport and SPD. Carter would not disclose the amount of the damages he will be seeking.

Carter said the evidence in this case went where it should logically go resulting in charges of negligent homicide and malfeasance.

“It is a change in America now,” Carter said. “We have a different mentality, we have a different approach. It’s a more unified approach than we’ve ever had. Dr. (Martin Luther) King talked about this when he said, ‘Black men, white men, Jews and gentiles will all come together at one time in the history of this nation to litigate for justice without regard to religion, race, color and creed.’ I think America is tired of this and of course this family is tired of it and I think we see a new way and a new approach, and we think this is precedent setting and we’re very grateful for God’s blessing in this situation.”

Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins issued a statement Friday.

“We have cooperated with the District Attorney’s Office throughout the McGlothen investigation. Now that the Grand Jury’s decision is out, we will allow the legal process to run its proper course. We have adopted additional policies related to excessive use of force to prevent incidents like this from occurring in the future. The McGlothen family remains in our thoughts and prayers,” his statement read.

The Times reached out to SPD for their response and was provided with the following: “We are not making any statements regarding this matter.”

In this instance, the SPD officers used excessive force in violation of SPD Taser policy; used excessive use of physical force that was injurious to McGlothen when it was unnecessary; failed to call for medical assistance; and placed McGlothen in the patrol cruiser on his head, limiting his ability to breathe. Finally, the officers failed to transport McGlothen to the hospital or call for paramedics for transportation to the hospital for care and treatment.

The SPD officers’ violations of use-of-force policy and protective-custody policy demonstrated a reckless disregard for a known risk of harm to McGlothen. These resulted in the indictments for negligent homicide and malfeasance in office.

The four indicted officers were notified they were subjects of the Grand Jury investigation and were given the opportunity to testify. Each chose to testify and three were represented by counsel. The officers turned themselves in on Friday and were released on $20,000 bonds.

If convicted, each of the officers faces up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000 on each count.

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