Beaten victim cleared as Louisiana soldier awaits trial

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana has dropped a lawsuit against a black man whose severe beatings before his 2019 arrest led to criminal charges and charges against a state trooper.

A traffic violation and charges of resisting an officer had plagued Aaron Bowman for two years. Court documents show the Louisiana attorney general’s office decided to dismiss the charges against Bowman on Monday, citing “insufficient evidence to support the prosecution” and “credibility issues” with the officers who arrested him.

Former State Trooper Jacob Brown faces a federal charge of violating Bowman’s civil rights in connection with the May 2019 beating. He has pleaded not guilty. A March 20 trial date was set for Tuesday.

The federal indictment charges Brown with beating Bowman with a flashlight that had a “tactical cap” designed to break glass.

Video and police records show Bowman was hit 18 times with a flashlight in 24 seconds. Records show it happened when he pulled over in the driveway of his Monroe home after police tried to arrest him for misusing the lane. He was not immediately taken into custody after the beating, but was arrested on a warrant issued a few days later.

The Attorney General’s office resumed the prosecution of Bowman after his lawyers asked a court to recuse the local prosecutor, 4th Judicial District Attorney Robert Tew.

Bowman is suing the state police and multiple Ouachita Parish agencies in civil court.

In the federal criminal case, Brown is charged with “disenfranchisement under the guise of law.”

Bowman’s case came to light as Louisiana State Police scrutiny intensified amid allegations of excessive use of force and racism.

The US Department of Justice announced a sweeping civil rights investigation into the agency last month amid mounting evidence of a pattern of averting the gaze from beatings of mostly black men, including the 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene, who died in custody after being beaten following a chase.

The announcement follows an Associated Press investigation that uncovered at least a dozen cases over the past decade in which state troopers or their bosses ignored or covered up evidence of beatings, deflected blame and hindered efforts to eradicate wrongdoing. Dozens of current and former soldiers said the beatings were encouraged by a culture of impunity, nepotism and, in some cases, outright racism.

Elna M. Lemons