Eyewitness News has obtained additional statements from Lafayette Police Officers who were involved in the violent confrontation with 22 year old Morris Thomas in June of 2010 that appears to contradict a video tape of the incident that was captured by a surveillance camera.
During an administrative hearing that was held by the Durel Administration on July 28th of 2010 one of the arresting officers Joel Grayson can be heard recounting his version of the initial confrontation with Thomas in the parking lot outside of Karma's nightclub.
In the video tape it appears the first blows are thrown by officer Thadeus Sices. But, Officer Grayson says Thomas threw the first blows when Grayson attempted to grab Thomas by the arm and take him into custody.
Officer Greyson contends in his report he was the first officer to strike Thomas, but the video tape appears to show Greyson didn't start throwing punches until after officer Sices began swinging.
The administrative hearings were used by the Durel Administration as a means of determining which clubs in the downtown area were having the most fights so that corrective action could be taken.
To view the reports officers Greyson and Sices submitted as evidence during the administrative hearing just click the links to the left.
Update: Violent Police Confrontation Caught On Tape (6/21) 10PM
Wednesday the Lafayette Police Department commented publicly for the very first time on the existence of a two year old surveillance tape showing two members of the department involved in a violent confrontation with a military policeman who was on leave from Fort Bragg on June 18th 2010.
Chief Jim Craft says the solider, 22 year old Morris Thomas, was given the opportunity to file a formal complaint. And when Chief Craft says Thomas failed to respond internal affairs eventually determined the two officers did not violate any departmental policy.
Craft says he also asked the FBI to investigate the incident. Not just because Thomas was living out of state but also because he wanted the FBI to conduct its own investigation into what happened that night. That was two years ago and as you'll see in this report Thomas and his family say they have yet to be contacted by anyone with the FBI.
Reached by phone Wednesday night at his base at Fort Bragg now Sergeant Morris Thomas confirmed he was contacted by Lafayette Police in July and August of 2010 and given the opportunity to file a complaint against the officers who confronted him in June of that year in the parking lot of a Hub City night club after he and another man were thrown out of the club for fighting.
But in the two years since then Thomas says neither he nor any member of his family, including his sister Morkaysha who witnessed some of the officers' actions that night have ever been contacted by the FBI.
Thomas's father, Morris Thomas:
Reporter: "Have you been questioned by anyone in law enforcement"?
Morris Thomas Jr.: "No, not one."
Reporter: "No law enforcement agency, not the city police, not the state police not the FBI"?
Thomas Morris Jr.: "No. Nobody, no one."
On Wednesday the Morris family told Eyewitness News that after their son was beaten by police he vowed never to return to Louisiana. That same night Eyewitness news reached Thomas by phone at Fort Bragg where he said the same thing, and said he never followed up with internal affairs because he never planned on coming back and just wanted to put the incident behind him.
But the day after the incident Thomas's parents say they tried to file a complaint.
Morris Thomas Jr.: "Me and my wife went to the police station and we tried to file a complaint against the officers and they didn't want to let us in, we talked to one guy, he kept giving us a hassle."
Thomas's mother Renee, who arrived on the scene shortly after her son had been taken away, said she and her husband were not only furious over the way their son was treated, they were also angry because she said police had told her that night her son was going to be checked out at UMC before being taken to jail.
Renee Thomas: "I went and asked the officer on sight where he was and he said he was going straight to the hospital and straight to jail. He was going to UMC. I went to UMC. He was not there."
Thomas told Eyewitness News over the phone his mother was correct, he has no memory of being taken to any hospital and says he went straight to jail, despite the fact he says he was knocked senseless during the course of being arrested.
In the surveillance video police can be seen dragging him across the parking lot. His head is down and his feet are not moving. Try to determine for yourself what happened that night.
Watch the video again and compare the surveillance video with the arrest affidavit that was filled out by Officer Joel Grayson.
Update: Violent Police Confrontation Caught On Tape (6/21) 5&6 PM
The night 22 year old Morris Thomas, a military policeman stationed at Fort Bragg, was beaten by Lafayette Police outside a nightclub in downtown Lafayette he wasn't alone.
Thomas's sister Morkaysha Joseph was there too. She can be seen standing in the lower left corner of the screen wearing a white shirt, looking on as officers continue to strike her brother, Morris as they placed him in handcuffs and tried to stand him up.
But according to Morkaysha her brother couldn't stand. So as a result she says officers Joel Grayson and Thadeaus Sices grabbed her brother by his wrists and began drag her brother across the parking lot to a waiting squad car.
It was at that point she says she realized her brother appeared to be out cold. Morkaysha says police put her brother in the back of a patrol car and then placed a hood over his face.
Officer Grayson would later write in his police report he did so because Thomas was spitting at him from the back seat of the squad car.
Thomas claims he wasn't trying to spit on anyone he was just trying to clear his mouth of blood and a broken tooth.
Morkaysha says members of her family who arrived on the scene were told by police they were taking Thomas to the hospital to get checked out and then to jail.
But family members who went to UMC say he was never brought in. A fact confirmed by Thomas, himself, who told Eyewitness News by phone Wednesday night, that despite his injuries, he was taken directly to jail.
Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft issued a press release Wednesday saying the violent confrontation that occurred two years ago between two of his police officers and a military policeman on leave from Fort Bragg did not violate departmental policy.
Chief Craft also says he selected the Federal Bureau of Investigation to examine the incident because the man arrested that night was an out of state resident, and because he wanted to make sure his officers acted properly.
But according to the man who was beaten by police that night, 22 year old Morris Thomas, in the two years since the fight neither he nor any member of his family has ever been contacted by anyone with the FBI.
A fact confirmed this week by Morris's father.
Update: Violent Police Confrontation Caught On Tape (6/20)
Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft says what happened to 22 year old Morris Thomas, an active duty member of the United States Army stationed at Fort Bragg North Carolina, is his own fault.
Thomas had been in a fight earlier inside Karma that left his opponent with a cut over his eye. According to the arrest affidavit officers were intent on taking Thomas into custody for that when they claim Thomas began yelling at them and then according to officer Joel Grayson as Grayson reached out to grab the young man's arm he punched Grayson twice in the face.
At that point Grayson says he punched Thomas and then the second officer Thadeus Sices began punching Thomas as well.
But District Attorney Mike Harson who viewed the video for the first time on Monday says he saw no signs Thomas made any aggressive moves to warrant such a violent reaction from police. And more to the point, what Grayson claims happened is not consistent with what appears on the video tape.
Not only does the tape show no sign of Thomas throwing any punches at Grayson it appears to show officer Sices and not officer Grayson threw the first punch.
Grayson appears to begin punching only after Sices has already struck Thomas at least twice. Thomas's sister Morkaysha Joseph was there when police began moving her brother to a police car.
Eyewitness news reached Thomas by phone from his base at Fort Bragg. Thomas denies throwing any punches and says he was knocked unconscious by police.
Court records confirm Thomas was initially charged with second degree battery aggravated battery of a police officer, battery on a police officer, resisting an officer violently and disturbing the peace.
But, when the case went to trial Thomas's Attorney showed a copy of this video tape to prosecutors who agreed to drop all of the most serious charges against Thomas in return for his agreement to plead guilty to one count of simple battery and one count of resisting an officer.
As for the FBI investigation Craft claims he asked for Thomas, his sister and the rest of the family say they have never been contacted by anyone with the FBI in the two years since the fight.
Chief Craft says Thomas was mailed a complaint form by the internal affairs department and that he never filed any formal complaint.
Thomas confirmed he did receive the form. But, by then Thomas said he had already vowed never to return to Louisiana and said he just wanted to put the incident behind him.
Whether he changes his mind now that the incident has been made public remains to be seen. Lafayette Police insist anyone who implies this matter was not properly handled by Lafayette police is incorrect and irresponsible.
Violent LPD Incident Caught On Tape (6/20) 6PM
On Eyewitness News at 5PM Wednesday we told you the man who was beaten by Hub City Police on June 18th of 2010 was 22 year old Morris Thomas, an active duty member of the United States Army and a military policeman stationed at Fort Bragg North Carolina.
We have also now identified the two officers who were involved in the incident. The officers who confronted Thomas have been identified as Officer Joel Grayson and officer Tadeus Sices.
According to officer Grayson; Morris struck him twice in the face as he was attempting to take Morris into custody for a fight that occurred earlier inside Karma Nightclub.
Grayson says he is then the first officer to strike Morris. But video of the incident shows no signs of Morris throwing any punches and from the video tape it appears its officer Sices and not Grayson that throws the first punches.
Morris's sister, Markaysha Joseph says her brother was knocked unconscious. The Morris family claim police told them they were taking their son to the hospital and then to the jail.
But, the Morris family say he was taken directly to jail. They say doctors at Fort Bragg who later examined their loved one say he suffered a broken bone in the face, a broken wrist, a chipped tooth and a concussion.
Coming up tonight at 10:00 PM Lafayette Police break their silence and talk to Eyewitness news about what happened that night from their perspective.
Violent LPD Incident Caught On Tape (6/20) 5PM
Tuesday we made public a previously never before released video of a violent confrontation between Lafayette Police and an unidentified man outside a Hub City nightclub.
Since then we've been able to learn a lot more.
Not only about when it happened, but the names of those involved. Including the name of the man who was repeatedly struck by police, and the officers who did it.
The confrontation occurred on the night of June 18th 2010, in the parking lot of Karma's Nightclub.
The man police beat unconscious and dragged off in handcuffs that night was 22 year old Morris the third.
An active duty member of the United States Army and a military policeman stationed at Fort Bragg North Carolina.
Thomas was enjoying a week's leave at home with his family who live outside Saint Martinville when he made the fateful decision to join his sister for a night out on the town in downtown Lafayette.
Coming up tonight at six we'll take a look at statements from police who claim Thomas threw the first blows and we'll compare it with the video of the incident viewed by district Attorney Mike Harson who told Eyewitness news he saw no indication Thomas had done anything to provoke such a violent response from police.
LPD Responds to the Airing of Video Footage
Lafayette, LA— The Lafayette Police Department is responding to the recent airing of video footage on June 19, 2012 by KLFY-TV. The video shows two Lafayette Police Officers involved in physical altercation with a suspect, as the officers were attempting to take the suspect into custody. The incident occurred on the morning of Friday June 18, 2010, at approximately 12:50 am, on the parking lot of Karma 314 Jefferson Street. The two officers involved were part of the department's downtown detail, where the department pays officers over-time to provide a police presence in the city's downtown area.
The two officers seen in the video were responding to a reported fight and made contact with a victim whom sustained a facial injury. The suspect was identified, approached by the two officers, and was told that he was being placed under arrest. The suspect was screaming and yelling at the time he was approached by the officers. One of the officers attempted to take the suspect into custody. The suspect is seen "pulling away" from the officer. The two officers responded with physical force to take the suspect into custody. The first officer that attempted to take the suspect into custody was struck in the face twice by the suspect during the altercation. This officer sustained a minor injury to his face. A review of the video did not show a violation of LPD policy.
The suspect is identified as Morris Thomas III (22). At the time of his arrest, Mr. Thomas was charged with Second Degree Battery, Aggravated Battery of a Police Officer, Battery on a Police Officer, Resisting an Officer (violently), and Disturbing the Peace.
Below is a timeline provided by The Lafayette Police Department as it relates to actions after the incident:
June 18, 2010- Initial Incident.
July 8, 2010- Morris Thomas III contacts LPD, concerning the filing of a complaint against the officers involved. Mr. Thomas indicates that he resides out-of-state.
July 9, 2010- Morris Thomas III is mailed (certified mail) statement forms by an LPD Internal Affairs Investigator.
August 2, 2010- Internal Affairs investigator makes phone contact with Morris Thomas III, to check on the status of the statement forms.
September 8, 2010- Chief of Police Jim Craft informs Internal Affairs Investigator of video footage involving LPD Officers.
September 13, 2010- Internal Affairs Investigator views the video and obtains a copy from a local attorney.
September 23, 2010- Chief of Police Jim Craft drafts a letter to FBI, asking them to investigate the incident and video. Chief Craft feels that the FBI is agency needed, due to Morris Thomas III residing out-of-state. Chief Craft is also concerned about a conflict of interest, due to the ongoing litigation involving Karma Nite Club at the time of the incident.
October 12, 2010- FBI notifies Chief of Police Jim Craft that an official investigation was started.
November 19, 2010- FBI requests from LPD all documents and evidence.
November 30, 2010- LPD complies with the FBI request for documents and evidence.
August 11, 2011- Morris Thomas III pleads guilty in District Court to Resisting an Officer and Simple Battery. Mr. Thomas never follows through with his initial complaint to Internal Affairs.
To imply that this matter was not properly handled by LPD is incorrect and irresponsible.
FBI Investigates LPD Incident Caught On Tape (6/20)
Eyewitness News has learned that the FBI has been investigating an incident involving members of the Lafayette Police Department.
And apparently the investigation has been going on for a while.
Above is a video tape of an incident that Eyewitness News has been told took place in the parking lot of a Hub City night club located on Jefferson Street.
The video in the player above appears to show two members of the Lafayette Police Department confronting an unidentified man.
After what appears to have been a brief exchange of words the video shows first one officer and then the second officer strike the unidentified man multiple times until he is forced to the ground and handcuffed.
On Monday we provided a copy of this video to Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft. Tuesday Chief Craft responded by issuing the following statement;
"I received a DVD copy of this incident about two years ago. It is currently under investigation, but not by this agency."
We also showed a copy of the video to District Attorney Mike Harson to get his take on the incident and more specifically his reaction to the way police handled the incident. Harson called the incident "suspicious".
To hear his comment click the video above.
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