Four Baton Rouge Police officers indicted, fifth officer cleared

BATON ROUGE — The District Attorney in Baton Rouge confirms a special grand jury has indicted four Baton Rouge Police officers.

Deputy Chief Troy Lawrence, Sr., Corporals Doug Chustz and Todd Thomas and Officer Martele Jackson were all indicted on June 25, 2024. Sgt. Jesse Barcelona was not indicted, although he was arrested last year alongside Lawrence, Chustz and Thomas.

“I think eventually when everyone sees all the evidence, you will see why the grand jury chose to pretermit [Barcelona] but we stand by and respect their decision,” said District Attorney Hillar Moore.

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Officer Jackson was deemed the whistleblower in the case by former Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul. Now, he must be arrested after his indictment today.

Baton Rouge Police officers indicted

The four officers have been indicted on a total of 17 charges:

Troy Lawrence

  • 4 counts of malfeasance in office
  • 1 count of criminal conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice

Doug Chustz

  • 1 count of obstruction of justice
  • 1 count of criminal conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice
  • 2 counts of malfeasance in office

Todd Thomas

  • 1 count of obstruction of justice
  • 2 counts of criminal conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice
  • 3 counts of malfeasance in office

Martele Jackson

  • 1 count of obstruction of justice
  • 1 count of malfeasance in office
Baton Rouge Police officers indicted
Baton Rouge Police officers indicted (Left to right: Martele Jackson, Doug Chustz, Todd Thomas, Troy Lawrence)

All five officers have been on administrative leave. The first four were placed on leave after their arrests last year. Jackson was placed on administrative leave in April 2024 and will now have to be arrested. Now, the four Baton Rouge Police officers who were indicted will have to have their arraignments.

“If you do something wrong and it violates the law and the evidence is there, we have a job to do,” said Moore. “This was an isolated incident. This is not an indictment of the Baton Rouge Police Dept. This has nothing to do with the Brave Cave. This is a completely isolated case that happened four years ago.”

A special grand jury was convened to hear this specific case and they started in late April 2024. It’s taken several months for the district attorney and his prosecutors to present the entire case to a grand jury to result in 17 indictments against four of the five officers.

“The grand jury chose not to believe Martele Jackson’s lies and that’s why my client Jesse Barcelona was cleared,” said Kyle Kershaw, one of the attorneys representing Barcelona & Chustz. “The only allegation against Doug [Chustz] was that he was there and that he did not intervene or report it to the higher ups.”

As for their jobs at BRPD, the four will go through hearings and there are still pending internal affairs investigations at BRPD. It’s unclear at this time if Barcelona can return to work immediately.

Keeping with our commitment to increased transparency, the results of those internal affairs investigations will be communicated to the public upon theconclusion.  All five Officers will remain on Administrative Leave until that time when due process has been completed in accordance with state law. 

“I want our community to know that this department is filled with law enforcement professionals that are doing great work around the clock,” said BRPD Chief T.J. Morse “I ask that your view of those exemplary men and women is not tarnished by the alleged isolated and unacceptable actions of a few.”

The Incident

The indictments come several months after Deputy Chief Troy Lawrence, Sr., Sergeant Jesse Barcelona, Corporals Doug Chustz and Todd Thomas were arrested in Oct. 2023. The four were accused of multiple crimes, related to an arrest of several individuals that occurred on Sept. 28, 2020.

According to the arrest warrants, a suspect who had been arrested by BRPD was later allegedly punched by corporal Todd Thomas for refusing to cooperate with a strip search. During that fight, the warrants claim that another officer, Martele Jackson’s body camera was activated and captured the alleged beating.

Jackson claimed that his body camera was taken from him by Thomas and disposed of to keep the video hidden. The other officers, including deputy chief Troy Lawrence, were accused of either participating in the alleged coverup or facilitating a “cover story” to explain the missing body camera.

Even though the incident caught on camera was in 2020, it wasn’t discovered until August 2023 when Chief Paul reported that Jackson “came forward” with the information. That is what led to the arrest of the four officers. But did Jackson actually “come forward?”

While Jackson is referred to as a “whistle blower,” the warrants appear to show that Jackson did not willingly come forward with the information. In fact, Jackson was allegedly asked about the incident by Chief Paul, after the top cop received a “tip” from an unknown person outside of the department who Jackson allegedly told. Sources tell UWK that “tip” came from Chief Paul’s friend and fraternity brother, who works in the Baton Rouge media, three years after the incident.

Background

October 2023, former Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul announced that four of his officers had been arrested as part of a conspiracy to hide evidence of wrongdoing. The four officers were deputy chief Troy Lawrence, Sr., sergeant Jesse Barcelona, corporals Doug Chustz and Todd Thomas.

When the announcement was made, Chief Paul credited an officer inside of the department who he referred to as a “whistle blower.” The officer was later identified as Martele Jackson.

Jackson allegedly received a transfer to a specialized division within BRPD in exchange for his role in the investigation.

While Chief Paul credited officer Jackson for being the “whistle blower,” Jackson was placed on administrative leave on April 26, 2024 and was the target of a grand jury investigation.

Mayor Broome issues statement

Today marks a significant development in our ongoing pursuit of justice and accountability within the Baton Rouge Police Department. The grand jury indictments of the officers following their arrests last fall underscores our unwavering commitment to uphold the principles of justice and integrity in our community.

These indictments reaffirm our dedication to police reform and accountability. The indictments should not reflect on the vast majority of Baton Rouge Police officers who are committed to professionalism.

Thank you to District Attorney Hillar Moore for his office’s thorough work in securing today’s outcome. We remain focused on ensuring justice and building trust throughout our community.

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome

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