SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Caddo District Court Judge Chris Victory is considering a motion for acquittal made by the defense in the trial of four Shreveport police officers charged with the in-custody death of Tommie McGlothen Jr.
The defense made the request immediately after the state rested his case late Thursday afternoon after four days of testimony from 28 witnesses.
McGlothen died in the backseat of a Shreveport police vehicle following a struggle with officers Treona McCarter, Brian Ross, D’Marea Johnson, and James LeClare. The four are charged with malfeasance in office and negligent homicide related to McGlothen’s death.
Prosecutors have argued that the officers showed a reckless disregard for Tommie McGlothen’s life and that their actions that day in combination with his psychotic mental state and their failure to get him medical attention led to his death.
Defense attorneys for the four officers told the judge that the state has failed to make its case on any of the charges.
“There’s just a complete dearth of evidence,” D’Marea Johnson’s attorney, Eron Brainard told the judge. Their experts ended up being witnesses for the defense. It’s just a horrible case and these officers need to go home and we all need to go home, your honor.”
Judge Victory considered the arguments made by both sides for about ten minutes before announcing he will “sleep on it” and come back in the morning to issue a ruling on the motion.
If the judge denies the motion, defense attorneys for the former officers will proceed with making their case, which is expected to take about two days. If the judge grants the motion, the officers will be acquitted of all charges.
Testimony on day four started with W. Ken Katsaris, who says he is an expert in law enforcement training and the use of force. Katsaris has extensive experience in dealing with mentally ill or emotionally disturbed subjects and preventing in-custody deaths, including excited delirium.
The state took Katsaris through the three interactions McGlothen had with Shreveport police on the day he died.
In the first, when McGlothen’s father and sister called the police in an attempt to have him committed, Katsaris says the officers should have done it.
Citing SPD’s general order regarding protective custody, Katsaris says the officers did not have to witness the qualifying behavior. That behavior includes homicide, suicidal actions, a threat to others, or being greatly disabled – and that, “given the totality of the circumstances,” which included information provided by the family, McGlothen threatened his father and said he was not afraid to die the officers could have taken action.
McGlothen’s father and sister were concerned he would have a confrontation with someone and get hurt, which is precisely how the day’s events played out.
Katsaris also said the officers gave the wrong advice that he had to be homicidal or suicidal to be involuntarily committed. “That is not true.”
In the second incident, McGlothen hopped into the backseat of a stranger’s truck and Officer Brian Ross saw the driver forcefully remove him and responded. Katsaris said it was clear a felony crime had occurred – unlawful entry.
Katsaris said McGlothen could have been taken into custody on that offense. He also said the officer should have called in the name McGlothen gave to check for any related calls or warrants or see if anyone else had dealt with him. That check would have allowed police to connect McGlothen with the earlier incident when his family tried to get him help via emergency commitment.
“I’m talking about police procedure,” Katsaris said on the stand. “That would have made the third incident never occur.”
In his review of McGlothen’s third and final interaction with police, in which he died, Katsaris took issue with how McGlothen was placed in the backseat of the police unit head-down. It violated policy because it could compromise breathing. “He should have been seated upright.”
Katsaris testified that his opinion as an expert in police practices, procedure, training, and supervision, is that the officers violated policy when they failed to decontaminate McGlothen. After using mace on him, have him checked for any medical issues potentially caused by that, or any other uses of force, including the taser, baton, and strikes from elbows and fists.
Katsaris says none of that would have been necessary if the officers had used the taser with a probe instead of a “dry stun” without the probe because that would have incapacitated him. A “dry stun” causes pain but not neuromuscular incapacitation, and pain has proven not to work as a method for subduing subjects who are mentally or emotionally disturbed.
Katsaris said officers learn to subdue resisting subjects by working as a team and had alternatives to doing what they did.
“If you only have one officer, it would be a different story, but you have four.”