BOSSIER CITY, La. (KSLA) — An incident caught on camera Jan. 13 cost a Bossier City police officer his job.
It all started with a phone call from a woman reporting that a police officer was driving his unit recklessly on Louisiana Highway 162 in Benton.
“I watched him almost hit a mailbox a couple of miles back and then since then, he’s swerved into the opposite lane, like five or six times over the like median,” the caller can be heard telling a police operator on a recording obtained through an open records request. “He looks like a young guy. I think he’s intoxicated. I’m really worried.”
After the call, department supervisors identified the driver as off-duty Officer Travis Coker. Two supervisors went out to Benton and contacted Coker in a grocery store parking lot.
A third officer who also arrived on the scene turned on his body camera, recording what ends up being a nearly 38-minute episode.
On the body camera, BCPD Capt. Leander Mathew is heard asking Coker about a pill body Mathew recovered from the police unit.
“What is that Diazepam?” Mathew asks.
Coker replies: “Lorazepam, Ativan.”
Mathew then questions Coker further, asking “Says may cause dizziness. Have you taken a couple of these?”
“No, not today,” says Coker.
But according to an Internal Affairs investigation, supervisors stated that Coker appeared under the influence of medication or substance.
Since Coker was off duty and outside Bossier City police jurisdiction, the investigation was only administrative in nature and not criminal. And because Coker was operating a city vehicle, supervisors ordered him to take a reasonable suspicion drug test pursuant to BCPD policy.
But body camera shows and the IA report states that Coker refused the order.
“I will go to any test y’all want me to go to. Just give just a little bit of time to get home and I will drive a POV back there,” Coker says in the video.
“We’re not going to let you drive. that’s the purpose of the test, to make sure you’re okay.”
The investigative report goes on to say that Coker “became very agitated and disrespectful” and “argues” with a BCPD Sgt. Tyrone Warren when told to stand in front of the patrol unit.
At one point, the following exchange is captured on the body camera.
Coker: “Am I under arrest?”
Sgt. Chris Estess: “No.”
Coker: “Then what do I need to stand in front of the damn vehicle for?”
Sgt. Warren: ”Because I said so, that’s why.”
Coker: “Who are you to say so? You ain’t no rank to me today.”
Sgt. Warren: “At this point I don’t trust you.”
Coker: “I don’t care if you trust me or not.”
Sgt. Warren: “I don’t want you near me.”
Coker: “That’s fine, I don’t want you near me. How about that? I’m not under arrest.”
The IA report indicates that Coker was immediately placed on administrative leave.
A second body camera video shows him surrendering his duty weapon and badge later that same day.
Thirteen days later, the internal affairs case against Coker was sustained on the grounds that he refused a screening test and misconduct. And according to this report, the Police Department’s top brass, including Police Chief Shane McWilliams, agreed with the investigative findings.
But the department did not write Coker’s termination letter until two weeks later, on the same date KSLA News 12 started asking questions about the case.
McWilliams declined our request for an interview. But in an e-mail, a department spokesperson said it was “coincidental” that Coker’s disciplinary letter was written the same day that KSLA News 12 filed an open records request seeking the investigative report and police videos.
KSLA News 12 also contacted Coker by cell phone. He refused to comment but passed along his attorney’s phone number. So far, his lawyer has not returned our messages.
Coker is expected to appeal his firing before the Civil Service Board, a process KSLA News 12 has learned is already in the works.
Watch the full body cam footage from the traffic stop below: