BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — A new federal lawsuit has been filed alleging there are two more “Brave Cave” locations.
Carrie Mealey, 68, and Houston Lawrence are plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in U.S. Middle District Court. Defendants include the City of Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul, East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gauxtreaux and former BRPD officer Troy Lawrence Jr.
In the filing, the plaintiffs accuse members of the police department and the sheriff’s office of being jointly involved in misconduct, including putting a bag over a suspect’s head and injecting him with a syringe.
Mother, son allege abuse
According to the suit, Carrie Mealey and her paraplegic son, who uses a wheelchair, were taken by officers to the “Brave Cave” location on Plank Road in June. Her son is not named as a plaintiff in the suit.
The spelling of his name varies, depending on the record inspected. This lawsuit names him as Shermon, and East Baton Rouge court records list him as Sherman and Shermon Mealey. A 2016 lawsuit filed for him in U.S. Middle District Court lists him as Sherman.
According to the complaint, Mr. Mealey was dropped to the ground while being loaded in the patrol car on May 13, 2022, before being taken to a precinct, where he was reportedly strip-searched. He was then reportedly taken to the Plank Road location, strip-searched again and interrogated before booking him into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, where he was reportedly subjected to a third cavity search.
“There could not have possibly been any reason to think Shermon had weapons or
contraband at EBRPP because officers had already subjected him to a prior visual body cavity search and he remained in custody until booking,” the suit said.
Mr. Mealey was released after the district attorney’s office no-billed his charges.
The suit said officers returned to Carrie Mealey’s house on June 28, 2023, and Lawrence Jr. was among the officers.
“They told Carrie they had a warrant, although they did not show it to him,” the suit said.
Mr. Mealey was reportedly taken from his wheelchair and handcuffed so tightly that they injured his wrists and arms. The handcuffs on Carrie Mealey were allegedly tight enough to leave welts for months afterward.
Carrie Mealey and her son reportedly were taken to Brave Cave on Plank Road, called the Street Crimes Office on her prisoner transfer sheet. He was strip-searched and charged with “alleged crimes,” the suit said.
Carrie Mealey also was interrogated at the facility, the suit said. She was taken to Urgent Care before being booked at the parish prison. She was charged with obstruction of justice, illegally supplying a felon with ammunition and illegally supplying a felon with a firearm.
“Part of the grounds for the ‘obstruction of justice charge’ was that Carrie Mealey went
to the BRPD evidence division, and the BRPD evidence officers gave her guns back that were hers,” the suit said.
Both reportedly underwent additional cavity searches at the prison. Mr. Mealey, according to the suit, asked for infirmary care and was instead placed in solitary confinement.
The district attorney did not bill their charges, the suit said.
Man says he was stripped, questioned at multiple sites
The suit also claims that Houston Lawrence has been the subject of harassment from police for years and was taken to three different “black sites” in separate incidents in 2019 and 2022.
In 2019, Houston Lawrence was reportedly handcuffed and taken to a “black site” off Acadian Thruway, where he was interrogated, and his cash was confiscated. He was released without being booked into prison.
Later that year, Houston Lawrence was handcuffed again and taken to the Plank Road location. The suit said Lawrence was strip-searched, interrogated and released without being booked.
In April 2022, officers reportedly raided and searched his home while he was handcuffed outside. According to the suit, his girlfriend heard officers say, “any money you find, keep it. Free money.”
Houston Lawrence alleges that he had $15,000 in cash taken by the police, but only $7,601 was reported as seized. He says police also took the SD cards from his home security cameras.
The lawsuit claims Houston Lawrence was taken to a black site with a bag over his head. It is believed he was at the Plank Road location, based on the interior.
He said officers used force.
Once there, he was reportedly forced to remove his clothes, squat and cough, then handcuffed to a table.
“Houston asked to speak to an attorney, but the officers refused and continued
interrogating him,” the suit said. “The officers took a syringe and used it to inject a milky white substance.”
The suit said Houston Lawrence was beaten and seriously injured, including a torn rotator cuff. They also reportedly brought his girlfriend to the site and threatened to arrest her.
He was strip-searched again while getting booked into prison. He was released on bond in July 2022.
In October 2022, Houston Lawrence was arrested at his apartment. He was reportedly strip-searched in the street outside his apartment. He reportedly had $3,500 on him at the time, and only $185 was booked into evidence.
Houston Lawrence was reportedly taken to a different black site off Siegen Lane, described as an “EBRSO Narcotic office,” according to the suit.
“At this Black Site, the officers again stripped and visual-cavity-searched Houston. While handcuffed, they pulled his pants and undershorts down to his knees and made him squat and cough,” the suit said.
He reportedly asked to speak to an attorney and was again ignored while the interrogation continued.
He was later booked into the parish jail and again strip-searched.
According to the lawsuit, none of the strip or cavity searches listed were documented.
The plaintiffs are asking for a jury trial and for the court to rule in their favor on all of their claims of alleged violations, including use of excessive force, false arrest and imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery.
The plaintiffs are represented by New Orleans attorney William Most.