To fully understand the lengths to which those in the upper echelons of the Jindal administration will go to punish those—especially subordinates—who dare to cross them, you need look no further than the case the Louisiana State Police hierarchy attempted to build against one of its own.
On Feb. 6, 2010, senior trooper Chris Anderson, assisted by 11-year veteran state trooper Jason LaMarca and two other troopers, Patrick Dunn, and Tim Mannino, stopped a flatbed 18-wheeler on I-12 in Tangipahoa Parish being driven by Alejandro Soliz.
LaMarca, with Anderson’s mobile video recorder (MVR) activated and recording every word and move, patted down Soliz. Finding no weapons on the driver, LaMarca then conducted a search of the truck cab and discovered “several kilos of cocaine,” according to court records.
LaMarca pulled his taser from its holster and he and Dunn approached Soliz, ordering him to get down, according to court records and testimony provided by the State Police Commission. After Soliz, who spoke English, refused to comply with several commands of “Get down,” LaMarca attempted unsuccessfully to re-holster his taser as he continued to approach Soliz.
Transferring the taser to his right hand, he cupped his left hand behind Soliz’s head and pulled him to the ground, according to testimony by LaMarca and the other three troopers, testimony supported by the video recording.
No one was injured, no shots were fired, and there were no complaints, then or later, by Soliz of excessive force.
U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon, however, reviewed the video and thought he saw LaMarca strike Soliz in the back of the head “with what appears to be a flashlight or similar item.” Judge Fallon added that the recording showed “three other troopers laughing at this act.”
State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, upon receiving a letter from the judge, immediately ordered an investigation into the incident—as he should have.
But what occurred next went beyond the pale of disciplinary action by Edmonson and his actions have been attributed by those familiar with the case to an act of retaliation for an earlier confrontation between LaMarca and Edmonson’s Chief of Staff, Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy.
Edmonson notified LaMarca on Nov. 18 that he was “suspended for 12 hours without pay and allowances” as a result of his actions. The cause of his suspension was based, Edmonson said, on the following violations of Louisiana State Police Policy and Procedure:
- The use of force policy;
- The use of force reporting policy;
- Conduct unbecoming an officer.
LaMarca, who had a spotless record in his 11 years, promptly filed an appeal with the State Police Commission, primarily to expunge the suspension from his record. The commission heard testimony from all four officers and reviewed the video recording of the arrest and put down of Soliz before issuing its ruling on Aug. 1, 2011.
In its ruling exonerating LaMarca, the commission noted:
- Appellant (LaMarca) had nothing in the hand he used to “put the driver on the ground.” Likewise, we do not perceive appellant’s actions, in doing so, to be the use of excessive force. While the driver had been cooperative until the drugs were found, he became uncooperative thereafter and refused numerous orders to get on the ground.
- While the maneuver used by appellant to take the driver to the ground may not be the one “taught” at the academy, it was effective and did not appear to be the use of “excessive” force.
- We likewise do not perceive the other troopers to be “laughing” at appellant’s action.
- As we do not find that appellant violated the “use of force” policy order, he likewise did not violate the “use of force reporting.”
That normally would have ended the matter. No weapons were used, no one was injured, no one complained of excessive force, and the commission found no violations by LaMarca.
But remember, LaMarca had earlier committed that unpardonable sin of arguing vehemently with Dupuy, Edmonson’s second in command.
And though Dupuy’s name never surfaces in the initial disciplinary action, the commission hearing and its subsequent decision, or court records, Edmonson was dutifully carrying the water for him and he made sure the issue was far from dead as he displayed unprecedented zeal in his attempt to punish LaMarca on behalf of his chief of staff.
Determined to exact revenge for LaMarca’s impudence, Edmonson took the matter up the line to the First Circuit Court of Appeal.
Much like the courtroom experiences of his boss Gov. Bobby Jindal, Edmonson went down in flames. At least the administration is consistent in that respect.
The First Circuit’s ruling of May 2, 2012:
- On review of the video and testimonial evidence concerning the surrounding circumstances at the scene of the rest, we find no error in the commission’s finding that the force and manner used by trooper LaMarca to secure the suspect and “affect the arrest” was not more than was reasonably necessary under the circumstances and hence did not violate procedure.
- On review, we find the verbiage used by the commission in concluding that the force used by LaMarca was not “excessive,” was simply synonymous with the commission’s ultimate finding that there was no violation of the “use of force” procedure order, i.e., that the use of force by trooper LaMarca was reasonably necessary under the circumstances.
- We find the decision of the commission thoroughly and sufficiently reviewed the evidence and testimony produced at the hearing and addressed the procedure order violations lodged against trooper LaMarca in the suspension letter issued by Col. Edmonson.
- After thorough review of the testimonial and video evidence herein…we find the decision of the commission is supported by substantial evidence.
Well, that certainly laid the matter to rest, right?
No, not if you’ve had a confrontation with Dupuy.
Edmonson promptly applied for writs (appealed) to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
And what became of that?
The State Supreme Court simply declined to even consider the matter.
Now it’s over.
Until, that is, it’s determined by Edmonson or Dupuy that LaMarca makes another misstep.
But with the publication of this post and the decisions of the State Police Commission and the First Circuit Court of Appeal now on the record, any similar attempts in the future would come dangerously close to harassment.