An unnamed Lafayette, Louisiana, police officer has been placed on administrative leave after he punched an unarmed 16-year-old boy during an incident at a bowling alley on Saturday night. Videos posted to social media show multiple cops swarming to the violent takedown of the teenager.
Officers initially responded to a complaint about a man with a gun at the Premier Lanes Bowling alley in Lafayette, Louisiana, at 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 5. Police did not find anyone with a gun at the location and left the scene.
Between 20 and 30 minutes later, police were conducting an unrelated traffic stop in the parking lot of the bowling alley.
During the traffic stop, the officers saw an individual who they claim they thought matched the description of the person who reportedly had a gun earlier. Officers approached the individual, a 16-year-old boy who was at the bowling alley with his identical twin. The Celestine twins, whose first names are being withheld because of their age, were waiting outside to enter the bowling alley in accordance with coronavirus restrictions that limit the number of people who can be inside a building at a time.
Officers initially approached one of the brothers and patted him down, searching for a weapon. Police say the teen was cooperative and unarmed.
The boy’s twin brother then approached the officers.
“I believe it turned physical because he may have approached the officers and got into their personal space,” Sgt. Wayne Griffin said of the encounter on Sunday. “Then it turned physical. I’m not going to go into details of who swung first or anything like that. I just know that it turned physical.”
The brother who approached the officers is the 16-year-old seen being punched in the videos. He was arrested for interfering with an officer, battery on an officer, and resisting arrest.
Neither teen had any weapons, and no guns were found at the location that night.
The Celestine twins’ attorney, Ronald Haley, said the teen approached the officers to find out why his brother was being patted down, and that officer responded physically.
Facebook user Ashley Brooke, who apparently witnessed the encounter and posted several videos of the incident to Facebook, wrote: “The guy was not resisting or anything. They slammed him into the door and then unto the ground, hitting him. He was not resisting.”
Pending an investigation by the Lafayette Police Department, the officer seen punching the teen has been placed on administrative leave, and two others have been pulled from regular duty.
“Based on preliminary findings from the video, Interim Chief Scott Morgan has ordered an immediate investigation into the matter. One officer will be placed on administrative leave pending the investigation in accordance with LPD policy. The two other officers involved will be temporarily pulled from regular duty pending additional investigative information,” a release from the police department reads.
An investigation is also being conducted regarding allegations that the teen and his family have been harassed by officers. One of the officers involved in the incident has previously encountered the twins. During a June 1 incident, police used a taser against one of the boys.
“I think this is a problem, systemically, of Black children being perceived as older than what they are and perceived as threats and handled completely differently than other kids,” Haley said.
Lafayette Parish NAACP President Marja Broussard responded to the incident, saying:
“Once again, we find ourselves disturbed, witnessing excessive use of force against citizens, lack of de-escalation tactics, and poor training; proving the sense of urgency for major police reform. We look forward to working with the Mayor-President’s administration, community leaders, law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders to ensure these things do not happen again. This must stop.”
Last month, the Lafayette Police Department came under fire for firing 17 shots at a Black man outside of Louisiana gas station, striking him 10 times and killing him. Trayford Pellerin’s family said he was suffering from a mental health crisis. Officers said he had a knife.