SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Activists across the world took to the streets in protest after the police-involved deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.
In Shreveport, Breka Peoples, co-founder of 45 Days of Action, and others demanded answers to police-involved deaths in our own community in their continuing fight for justice and equality.
She says watching the Derek Chauvin trial unfold hits close to home.
“You have to think about it, even with Tommie McGlothen,” Peoples said. “We’ve seen how he was beaten to death and slammed to the concrete, how he was tazed so many times. As we watch that and watch Georgie Floyd, you see we haven’t gotten far from the days where they used law enforcement to beat us.”
On April 5, 2020, Tommie McGlothen Jr., a 44-year-old black man, died while allegedly in the custody of Shreveport police, according to the Caddo Parish district attorney.
At the time, SPD didn’t report McGlothen’s death publicly and 54 days passed before the district attorney’s office received an investigative file from police with D.A. James Stewart saying that file is “missing reports, statements, downloads and other vital information essential to conduct a thorough and complete review.”
In June 2020 the Caddo Parish coroner released the cause of Tommie McGlothen Jr.’s death as natural — but says that it possibly could have been prevented.
“Watching the trial shows me we haven’t gotten far at all,” Peoples said. “We are really back 50 years. I understand that George Floyd triggers a lot of people, but we have so many George Floyds on the plantation called Shreveport. This fight that we are fighting we are going to have to fight together. We are fighting a systemic problem that destroys all of us regardless of what color you are. Most people say it’s a Black thing but I think it’s a systemic thing that’s going on in the U.S. As I watched the officer stood on his neck for over 9 minutes, the smirk on is face, it triggered me. I had to make myself watch the trial. We need justice. Without justice there is no peace.”
Peoples says it’s going to take everyone: the community, law enforcement and elected officials to come to the table, have tough discussions and agree upon solutions for there to be real change.
“We have solutions but we need officials to come to the table with the activists and the leaders out here doing it, doing the work,” Peoples said. “That’s where it starts, but if you have elected officials that aren’t for the people, it isn’t going to happen.”
Marvin Muhammad is the Administrator of Justice for the Nation of Islam and is a VP of the NAACP Shreveport Chapter. He says city and parish officials need to show they care if they want change.
“We need someone who is able to connect with the community and not to be a hindrance to what we are trying to build in Shreveport and Caddo Parish,” Muhammad said. “Where there is not justice, there will not be peace. We have been begging, pleading, crying for peace. we simply say that we want justice but we want justice applied equally to all regardless of class, creed or color. That is the standard we must have.”
Both Peoples and Muhammad will be joined by others at Thursday’s Caddo Parish Commission meeting demanding an independent investigation into the events leading to Casey Simpson’s death at a local hospital March 16 after he was found unresponsive in his cell at Caddo Correctional Center.
CPSO says deputies called for medical backup and an ambulance and lifesaving measures were performed by deputies until the Shreveport Fire Department arrived at about 12:45 p.m. to transport Simpson.
An autopsy was performed by the Caddo Parish coroner, CPSO says. The preliminary report from the coroner’s office says Simpson died of natural causes and that there was no evidence of trauma. Full results with toxicology should be available soon.
The sheriff’s office claims since the time of his booking into Caddo Correctional, Simpson refused medication prescribed to him more than 100 times.
In response to Simpson’s death, District 3 Caddo Commissioner Steven Jackson is introducing a resolution Monday, April 5, at the Caddo Commission work session calling for independent third-party investigations into deaths that occur in parish custody.
Resolution No. 35 of 2021 looks “to establish an independent third-party review process at Caddo Parish-owned properties or facilities, and otherwise providing with respect thereto” in an effort to be more transparent with the public.
The resolution goes on to say “in the case of a death in or deriving from a parish-owned property facility, the following are required:
- Notification to the Parish Commission within 24 hours of the death or next of kin can notify the Parish Commission within 30 days
- Parish Administrator to request independent 3rd party inquiry from a non-Caddo Parish law enforcement entity on behalf of the Parish Commission within 48 hours
- Findings of review to be reported back to Caddo Parish Commission in either executive or open session
- Report must be made available to the public unless other circumstances prevent”
In Monday’s Caddo Commission Work Session, several members of the public, including Simpson’s family, spoke out asking for more transparency during the public comment period.
“He suffered,” Laura Sabbath, Simpson’s mom, told KSLA. “My baby suffered. He didn’t just drop dead. He was a strong lad. So no, my baby didn’t just drop dead. That’s a lie.”
Sabbath says she has requested footage from CCC leading up to her son being found unresponsive in his cell, but says CPSO requires a court order to get them.
Caddo Commissioner Lyndon B. Johnson told KSLA he reached out to the Superintendent of Louisiana State Police to ask about the process of doing an independent investigation inside a prison facility. Johnson says Colonel Lamar A. Davis, LSP’s Superintendent, told him the Sheriff is the person who contacts State Police to request an investigation, but that if the Sheriff doesn’t request an investigation the Mayor or Parish President can request one. Johnson says he has reached out to Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator through email:
“Sheriff Steve Prator, there are some citizens and some local elected officials would like for you to request an independent investigation by the Louisiana State Police (LSP) for the death of Casey Louis Simpson within Caddo Correctional Center (CCC). This request comes with the need for an unbiased and transparent outside investigation. The public, which employs us, desires an outside investigation as a check and balance to the internal investigation being conducted within your sheriff department. Please respond to the request.
Lyndon B Johnson
Caddo Parish Commission, President”
Sheriff Prator responded on Monday:
“Commissioner Lyndon Johnson,
I have received your request for an independent investigation to be conducted by the Louisiana State Police into the death of Casey Louis Simpson. Please forward any information that you have to support your claim that this investigation has not been “unbiased and transparent”. Any information provided will be thoroughly investigated.
The citizens of Caddo Parish have overwhelmingly elected me for six terms to be their chief law enforcement officer, as our constitution dictates. I have earned the trust of the citizens because of the “unbiased and transparent” manner with which the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office operates under my leadership.
When the Caddo Parish Coroner concludes his investigation and all reports are finalized any citizen is free to do a public records request and have full access to everything not protected by federal HIPPA law.
Sheriff Steve Prator”
The Caddo Parish Commission advanced Commissioner Jackson’s resolution and it will be discussed further at their Regular Session Meeting on Thursday.