A Bar Brawl, an Internal Affairs Investigation, and a Cover-Up: The Untold Story of Baton Rouge Police Department
The events that unfolded at Southdowns Lounge in Baton Rouge in March 2003 were anything but ordinary. A group of men engaged in a one-sided beatdown in the parking lot, leaving the victim injured and fleeing the scene. But the story didn’t end there. The attackers moved on to the nearby Sonic Drive-In, where the second round of the brawl took place.
Tom Pasqua, a regular at Southdowns, tried to intervene in the fight but was thrown to the ground. He didn’t think much of the incident until reporters approached him years later. Among the chaos, Pasqua warned the brawlers that the police had been called. In response, one of the men declared, “We are the f—ing police,” dismissing any potential consequences.
Pasqua, now 20 years older and living a peaceful life in Prairieville, revisits the events by reading the outcome of the complaint he filed two decades ago. His emotions range from annoyance to dismay as he realizes the stark difference between his memory of the events and what the police report claims to have happened.
Referring to his involvement as the “Sonic assault,” Pasqua tracked down the assailants at the fast-food restaurant. He was determined to hold them accountable if they were indeed police officers. Armed with a pen and pad, he started writing down their license plate numbers. One of the men, enraged by Pasqua’s actions, charged at him. Pasqua managed to escape the assailant’s headlock but was soon cornered by another man, who he would later identify as John Dauthier, a retired BRPD officer and a prominent figure in an anti-Paul group called “The Resistance.”
Surrounded and fearing for his safety, Pasqua surrendered. He was put back in a headlock and thrown to the ground as Dauthier rummaged through his pockets, searching for a piece of paper with their license plate numbers. Despite Pasqua’s attempt to throw off the paper, it was eventually found. Dauthier released Pasqua and attempted to apologize, but it was too late for any reconciliation.
The incident shed light not only on the actions of the officers involved but also on the practices of the BRPD Internal Affairs Division. Pasqua had filed a criminal and Internal Affairs complaint against the officers involved, hoping for some form of accountability. But the investigation and subsequent report revealed a lack of cooperation from the officers and inconsistencies in their statements.
The Internal Affairs Division’s findings labeled Pasqua’s complaint as “not sustained,” meaning the allegations were neither proven nor disproven. Despite the evidence implicating the officers, no charges were filed, and no disciplinary actions were taken. The chief at the time, Pat Englade, approved the finding that no officers were involved in the incidents.
Members of an anti-Paul group, including Dauthier and Englade, vehemently opposed Chief Murphy Paul’s attempts to reform the BRPD. They believed that the previous approach of aggressive policing and giving officers the benefit of the doubt was the most effective way to combat crime. They criticized Paul’s focus on officer discipline and likened it to “cancel culture.”
The handling of Pasqua’s complaint disappointed Eugene Collins, the former Baton Rouge NAACP president, who has encountered numerous flawed Internal Affairs investigations throughout his years of police reform work. He found it intriguing that two vocal critics of Chief Paul were involved in a potential cover-up of the Southdowns and Sonic incidents.
The investigation into the incidents concluded without significant consequences for the officers involved. The case exposed flaws within the BRPD and highlighted the resistance Chief Paul faced in his efforts to reform the department.
The article explores the untold story of the bar brawl, the subsequent Internal Affairs investigation, and the alleged cover-up within the Baton Rouge Police Department. Despite Pasqua’s persistence and compelling evidence, the officers involved in the incidents faced no accountability, leaving many questions unanswered and justice unserved.