Case of Pearl River Veteran Beaten by St. Tammany Parish Deputies Turned Over to Feds

Army veteran Chris Cambre, who says he was beaten by St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s deputies during a welfare check in January, is shown the following day with a facial laceration.

Louisiana – Chris Cambre says he was having a bad day Jan. 21 when he posted on social media that he was struggling. The Army combat veteran suffers from anxiety and depression, and his online post and his failure to answer his phone got someone worried enough to call and ask police to do a welfare check.

But Cambre’s bad day was about to turn far worse.

The 48-year-old former military police officer from Pearl River says he was later knocked out, tased, handcuffed and beaten by five St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies, an account backed up by a Pearl River police officer who was at the scene.

The Sheriff’s Office told Cambre and Pearl River Police Chief JJ Jennings that an internal affairs investigation into the incident found no wrongdoing on the part of the five deputies: Roger Gottardi, Chad Melendez, Chris Harman, Ryan Hopkins and Jason Wilson.

But 22nd Judicial District Attorney Warren Montgomery, who has conducted a preliminary investigation, said he has referred the matter to federal authorities “for their determination if there was any possible violation of federal civil rights.”

Sheriff Randy Smith declined to be interviewed for this story and did not respond to emailed questions.

According to the Pearl River Police Department incident report, the Pearl River officer and an emergency medical technician from St. Tammany Fire Protection District No. 11 were sitting with Cambre outside his trailer home trying to persuade him to go to the hospital because of his mental health issues.

He did not want to do so, the report says, citing fear that he would lose his job.

When Assistant Fire Chief Matt Parrish was notified of his response, he came to the scene and said he thought Cambre needed to be hospitalized, the report says.

He told the dispatcher to call the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office for assistance because Cambre had military training “and had previously mentioned suicide by cop,” the report says.

Five deputies arrived, rifles drawn, and Cambre, who “appeared frightened,” lifted his shirt and turned a 360-degree circle, saying, “I don’t have any weapons,” the report says.

The deputies secured their weapons in the Pearl River officer’s vehicle. She then told them she was just there for “a welfare check” and that Cambre did not want to go to the hospital.

But that’s exactly where Cambre ended up that night, bruised and bleeding from a laceration to the side of his face.

According to the report, the deputies did not speak to Cambre to gauge his demeanor. Instead, one yelled at him, “I’m tired of dealing with your (double expletive); get down on your knees.”

Then, “the second deputy immediately deployed his controlled electronic device. Three other deputies simultaneously approached Mr. Cambre from behind on his right side where all five deputies then jumped on Mr. Cambre, while one deputy continuously struck Mr. Cambre with a baton,” the report says.

Cambre says he remembers hearing the sound of the metal baton being extended before he was struck in the head. He says he was knocked unconscious but came to face-down in the mud as the deputies tased and beat him.

All the while, he says, they were yelling at him to stop resisting.

“I was thinking to myself, as I’m being tased, ‘I can’t resist. I can’t move,’ ” he told The Advocate and WWL-TV this week.

Cambre was not arrested that night, and no charges were ever filed against him.

Jennings, the Pearl River police chief, said he was “shocked and saddened” by what happened to Cambre that night and fears that it might discourage other veterans from reaching out for help.

“He wasn’t belligerent. He was very calm,” Jennings said, admitting he was not at the scene and doesn’t know if the deputies saw something other than what was in his officer’s report. “I don’t understand what he did wrong to be tased or beaten.”


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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