I-TEAM: Woman alleges she faced body cavity search inside Brave Cave

Through her attorney, a Baton Rouge grandmother told the WAFB I-TEAM she was violated inside the infamous Brave Cave back in June.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 6:21 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Through her attorney, a Baton Rouge grandmother told the WAFB I-TEAM she was violated inside the infamous Brave Cave back in June. She claims she underwent a body cavity search after being forced to strip naked inside the facility following a traffic stop.

The woman and her husband, who asked not to be identified, were pulled over along Plank Road by members of the Baton Rouge Police Department Street Crimes Unit, including Troy Lawrence, Jr., because their window tint was too dark. Body camera video shows it does not take long before officers have the couple outside the car while they search the vehicle, asking about drugs.

“Do y’all have anything inside this vehicle or either on y’all’s person such as narcotics,” Lawrence, Jr. questions.

”Oh no,” the woman replies. “F**k no. I got a transportation company,” the woman said.

The woman’s husband admitted to officers that there was a small amount of marijuana in the car. A police report from the traffic stop shows the street value of the marijuana that was found inside the car was a dollar. The officers also questioned the couple about a Twisted Tea alcoholic beverage that they found open and empty in the door cupholder on the passenger side of the car. The officers said because of the open container and because the insurance on the car has expired, they were going to search the car.

After searching her bag, officers found a gun that the woman says she legally owns. She explained that the gun was not loaded and she bought it years ago—using it for protection because she owns a night club. At one point during the traffic stop, officers found pills in the woman’s purse. The video shows she repeatedly told them she has a prescription for the medications and she can be heard asking them several times to check her Walgreens app for proof.

Body camera video shows one of the officers question the woman about the pills when they discover different pills inside the same bottle.

“That’s my Adderall and my Xanax,” the woman explains.

“You cannot mix them baby,” one of the officers said. “You cannot mix them like that.”

When the woman tried to explain that she has prescriptions for the pills and urges the officers to check her app for confirmation, the video shows they shut down her requests.

“Ma’am, it don’t work like that,” one of the officers said.

There is no Louisiana law that says people cannot mix medications as long as they can prove they have a prescription. When she pleaded with the officers to show that proof, they told her no.

“There’s no law that states that you must carry certain pills in certain bottles of prescriptions that you have lawfully,” said attorney Ryan Thompson, who represents the woman. “It’s very problematic from the very beginning of the stop to the transportation and arrest of my client to the search of my client.”

Thompson said while there is no video of their trip to the Brave Cave, the woman claims she was forced to strip naked inside the facility and stretch open her private area. Once officers could not find anything, and after more than two hours, she says she was released after she was finally allowed to provide proof of the prescriptions.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked the attorney if he believes it’s telling that the woman was released without facing any charges and without even being given a ticket for the lack of insurance.

“I think it’s very telling. They were looking for something. They didn’t find it. Why she was taken to the Brave Cave and again searched and a body cavity search was done on her, I don’t know. Officers should have probable cause and reasonable suspicion before they arrest individuals,” said Thompson. “You definitely should have reasonable suspicion before you body search someone. You should have a warrant along with probable cause before you look in someone’s private parts like their buttocks or vagina. None of that happened here and for you to do that to someone and then release them, I think it is telling, and it’s problematic. It is unconstitutional and I believe that someone should be arrested for it.”

This is the latest complaint that has come out of the Brave Cave. Now that the facility has been permanently shut down and all the officers tied to the street crimes unit have been reassigned to uniform patrol, the WAFB I-TEAM has learned the mayor’s office and BRPD are even looking at outside agencies to possibly assist with their ongoing criminal investigation into the matter. Thompson said that is welcome news.

“I believe that the chief and his administration are more than competent to conduct a criminal investigation but there’s nothing wrong with other eyes on this as well,” said Thompson.

As for this case, the attorney said it raises the question of who else may have been roughed up or otherwise violated within the walls of the facility. He says so far, he’s heard from several other victims.

“That’s just not right and it’s a problem and I would hope that all citizens, irrespective of race, color or creed or even socioeconomic status would be concerned with this because if they do it to the least of thee, they’ll do it to you,” said Thompson.

WAFB did reach out to BRPD for comment on the allegations in this report. A spokesperson for the agency issued the following statement.

“The Baton Rouge Police Department received the complaint and initiated an investigation on September 4, 2023.”

Officials will hold a press conference Monday, Sept. 18 to discuss the latest findings in their investigation of BRPD’s Brave Cave. It will begin at 9 a.m.

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