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INVESTIGATIVE UNIT: BRPD opens probe after claim officer strip-searched 11-year-old boy

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BATON ROUGE — City police said Wednesday they have launched an internal investigation following allegations that an officer strip-searched a woman and her 11-year-old son after barging into their home while looking for illegal firearms last summer.

At a previously scheduled meeting with representatives from print and broadcast media, Baton Rouge Police Chief T.J. Morse said he had received a complaint Tuesday about officer misconduct and assigned it to Internal Affairs. 

"Upon completion of our investigation, we are committed to being transparent in our findings," Morse said, reading from a prepared statement. 

The complaint stems from a June 6 raid at a home along Aster Street near River Road, following complaints that juveniles had been shooting various weapons in the area. ShotSpotter reports led officers to the home, and detectives took five handguns and one rifle during their search.

Lakeisha Varnado and Tredonovan Raby, on behalf of themselves and their children, filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming officers violated their constitutional rights. Varnado said Officer Joseph Carboni strip-searched her and an 11-year-old boy at BRPD's BRAVE Cave, an interrogation center used by police. 

The 11-year-old "asserts that the 'white dude with a beard, he told me to strip my clothes so he could search me," the lawsuit says. "The white man, he told me to, and I did. ... That's when he started touching on me and stuff. He touched my private area like here," he said, according to the court filing.

The lawsuit was assigned to U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, who in a separate case in 2016 put Baton Rouge Police on notice about how they conduct strip-searches. She said then she was alarmed by a police officer's admission that it was common practice for him and others to perform strip searches on people being detained.

Morse on Wednesday said BRPD's policies indicate when strip searches may be used, but would not talk specifically about the new lawsuit. BRPD policy notes that arrestees should not be strip-searched unless there is a specific reason to believe that a detained person has concealed a weapon or contraband.

Varnado and Raby say none of those conditions were present in June.


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