A story in The Advocate this morning said, “Raheem Howard, 21, of 6952 Carvel Court, Baker, was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on attempted first-degree murder and illegal use of a weapon. Howard allegedly shot at officer Yuseff Hamadeh Tuesday on North 15th Street after a traffic stop.”
If Mr. Howard shot at Officer Hamadeh he should spend time in jail for his actions. I want to be clear in saying that. I do not condone violence against police, the men and women who do the job of policing our communities deserve to be able to go home to their families at night.
When Raheem Howard was perp walked out of state police headquarters last night, he said, “They said I had a gun, but I didn’t have nothing in my hand,” said Howard, shaking his head. “They got the dash camera and the body camera. I got out and ran. I didn’t have nothing. I had no gun at all. … I’m innocent. I’m only 21 years old. … I didn’t do nothing by run.”
I listened to that video over and over last night and watched Howard’s body language and I have questions on this incident. Why? Because Officer Hamadeh is the same officer who last year shot and killed Jordan Frazier with 2 shots to the back and 1 to the leg. This means Officer Hamadeh shot a man who was running away from him in the back.
In the incident with Fraizer there was no body or dash cam footage available. The city at the time only had one precinct fitted with cameras, and the dash cam on the car allegedly didn’t work.
How does the public trust that an officer who shot a man in the back and killed him, did so justifiably? Because the officer said so? Now in this incident, the young man fleeing survives the encounter and says he is innocent.
There is one clear way to know if he is or isn’t, release the tapes and show the public what took place when Officer Hamadeh fired his weapon.
I have deep concerns with this situation, because over the last year and a half my team and I have submitted multiple public records request for video footage of officer involved shootings or incidents. Not a single one of those request has been fulfilled. Each of these incidents involves different officers of the Baton Rouge Police Department.
In June, I shared photos of a 16 year old who was bit by police dogs. His story was troubling. I talked with leaders in the mayors office and the police department. Today is August 10th and we still have yet to see the footage.
In April Tonisha Hawkins an army vet was allegedly roughed up and had bruises on her abdomen from an encounter with a Baton Rouge Police officer, we submitted pubic records request for the footage and to this date have not received any footage.
In November of 2017, Calvin Toney was shot and killed at his apartment by a Baton Rouge Police officer. I personally spoke with officials about the incident, and submitted a public records request. Nearly a year later, we still have yet to see the body cam footage for the shooting which officers have said was justified.
How are we the public to trust, what we can’t see? Also, what was the purpose of purchasing body cameras for the department if at every turn we request to see what took place with an officer, the department can refuse to release the footage until they deem it appropriate to show the public? Footage is usually released months or years later when many have forgotten the incident even happened.
The metro council at this point needs to step up and create law, not police department policy concerning the release of footage and audio of incidents involving police. It must be law, because if it is police handbook policy, it can be changed with a new chief of police almost without public scrutiny.
We should adopt policy similar to that of Sacramento California. When an officer is involved in an incident in Sacramento the officer must give a reason for turning off their microphone or body camera before doing so. This change came after the death of Stephon Clark who was shot and killed by SPD. The other policy in Sacramento that I believe we should adopt is that all footage and audio must be released in 30 days.
In the case of Alton Sterling it took the people of Baton Rouge nearly two years to see what officers saw on July 5, 2016. In the incidents I listed above, we have yet to see any footage. The public deserves to be able to know if the actions of an officer are justified, because we are at the mercy of these individuals.
This shouldn’t take months to happen, it needs to happen now, and work retroactively for all the incidents that have taken place where the public has asked to see what actually happened.
It is a fact that Officer Hamadeh shot and killed Jordan Fraizer last summer with two gunshots to the back. He was given an award this year for valor, for the incident that took place with Frazier. Ultimately he was awarded for shooting a man in the back.
Now he has shot at another citizen, who claims his innocence. The public should be allowed to know for certain if Raheem Howard fired shots at this officer, and we shouldn’t have to wait years to know that information, because in a few days Hamadeh will be hack on the streets of Baton Rouge patrolling and he’s killed a citizen who was fleeing and fired his weapon at another citizen who was running away. Tax payers funded body cameras so we wouldn’t be forced to just take an officers word for it. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue, everyone in Baton Rouge should want to know with certainty if an officers actions were justified or not.
We need an ordinance written and brought before the council on the release of footage and audio of incidents with police now — not later. Otherwise the mistrust between police and the communities they serve will continue to be an issue in this community.