Black Man Filming Police On Phone Attacked, Then Arrested

Louisiana Black man, Jacobi Cage, is show being victimized by police officers in a video-
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Photos: Twittter screenshots

A Louisiana Black man, Jacobi Cage, is show being victimized by police officers in a video--after he exchanged words with police for apparently recording them with his cellphone.

Thousands packed the sidewalks along Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, watching the Krewe of Centurions Mardi Gras parade in March of 2019 when a brawl broke out at a nearby parking garage. More than two dozen men traded blows in a bloody melee that forced the parade’s 20-plus floats to grind to a halt.

Sheriff’s deputies quickly broke up the fight, arresting at least one man. As officers attempted to calm the crowd and shepherd them back to the parade route, Sgt. Keith Dowling claimed he saw someone hurling obscenities at his officers.

An “argumentative Black male [was] agitating elements within the crowd by repeatedly yelling ‘Fuck You’ while gesturing with both middle fingers at responding deputies,” Dowling wrote in his incident report.

He identified the person in question as Jacobi Cage.

Cage’s presence at the parade is the only thing about that night that he and the officers agree on. Dowling, an eight-year veteran of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, said he tried to de-escalate the situation by quietly removing Cage from the scene, but the then-20-year-old became violent and swung “wildly” at him, hitting him in the chest. The sergeant stated in his report he had no choice at that point but to use force to take Cage to the ground, after which he booked Cage for battery of an officer and resisting arrest.

After spending several hours in the parish jail, Cage was released with a summons to appear in court. He returned to his home that night feeling angry and helpless. Cage, who’d been a football standout at Destrehan High School in neighboring St. Charles Parish until his graduation two years earlier, had never been in legal trouble before, but now he was facing up to six months in jail and a criminal record.

He tried to tell his family he was innocent. He said the deputies attacked and beat him for no reason, then falsely arrested him. But it was his word against that of the Sheriff’s Office, and for a young Black man in Jefferson Parish, a majority-white, conservative community just outside of New Orleans, that was a losing hand.

As Cage lay in bed that night, unable to sleep, he scrolled through his Twitter feed and noticed a video that had been taken at the parade. The tweet said: “man just recording got assaulted and arrested for nothing.” A video posted to Twitter showed Cage’s assault.

Cage hit play and said he began to cry, in both relief and shock, as he watched the 38-second clip, which has now been viewed more than 284,000 times.

The footage shows Cage standing on one side of an orange mesh barricade while two deputies are on the other, a few inches away, staring directly at him. Cage is holding his phone in his right hand, recording their interaction.

An unidentified deputy points at Cage, motioning for him to move away. Cage takes a few steps back. That’s when Detective Nicholas Broussard reaches across the mesh, smacks Cage’s phone out of his hand, then gives Cage the middle finger and walks away. In response, Cage holds up both middle fingers. Dowling responds by lunging at Cage, dragging him over the mesh barricade and slamming him headfirst into the ground.

Someone can be heard yelling repeatedly at the deputies, “That shit not right! That shit not right!”

“The police just grabbed me and started punching me,” Cage said. “I had a busted lip. My nose was crooked. I had a torn rotator cuff from football and they reinjured that. I felt like they were about to pull my arm off.”

At no point in the video does Cage become violent or swing at the deputies, though Dowling claimed in his report that the only reason he used force was that Cage had turned aggressive. Nor did the sergeant report that Broussard smacked Cage’s phone out of his hand. In fact, Broussard’s name is never mentioned in Dowling’s report at all.

“You always have your good cops, your bad cops,” Cage said. “I have no problem with the police. Even to this day. But what I seen that day was just wrong. Them charging me was just insane. It can happen anywhere, to anybody.”

The charges Cage faced are known by police critics, defense attorneys and some federal investigators as “cover charges.” Deputies can use these offenses — typically resisting arrest, battery of an officer and flight from an officer — to arrest people they have assaulted, experts say.

The charges, which are sometimes used in combination with other offenses, allow officers to cover up their use of excessive force and help shield the department from civil liability, according to civil rights attorneys. Because there is often no other evidence save for the word of the officer, and because the resisting arrest statute is written so broadly that it can be applied to almost any situation, convictions are relatively easy to secure. And once someone is convicted or enters a guilty plea, they often lose the right to sue for any alleged police brutality.

An investigation by WWNO/WRKF and ProPublica found that Black people are arrested in Jefferson Parish at a disproportionate rate overall — and arrested for cover charges at a still higher rate.

The Black community accounts for 26% of the parish’s population and 57% of all arrests. But in cases where the arrest is based exclusively on cover charges, 73% of the time, the person is Black. Read more.

Read the "news" release from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office.

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