A Louisiana police department recently released the dash cam video of a former Lake Charles cop incessantly punching a man with his empty hands up in surrender. The former officer pleaded guilty earlier this month to using excessive force under color of law.
Around 4:35 a.m. on May 8, 2017, a driver identified only as “G.T.” was driving erratically and led police on a pursuit for several miles. According to the police report, the suspect drove over a spike strip and evaded four pit maneuvers before finally being stopped on the fifth attempt.
Police dash cam video recorded G.T.’s vehicle spinning out of control as a patrol car hit it with a pit maneuver. Before the suspect’s SUV could regain control, another patrol car struck his vehicle head-on in order to stop the pursuit.
As Lake Charles police officers rushed toward the suspect’s doors, G.T. remained calm with his hands visibly in the air. Although the suspect did not appear to resist or fight back, Lake Charles Police Officer Robert Hammac ran to the front passenger side door, opened it, grabbed G.T. before he could exit, pulled him back into the car, and repeatedly punched G.T.’s head more than a dozen times with a closed fist.
In the video, the officers kept repeating: “Stop resisting!”
But according to the U.S. Justice Department, the victim was not resisting in any way or posing a threat.
Hammac resigned from the department in November 2017 while under investigation for use of excessive force in at least three separate incidents. On August 15, Hammac pleaded guilty to a single count of deprivation of rights under color of law for beating G.T. without justification.
“Law enforcement officers must uphold and defend the constitution,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “When an officer abuses their power, the public’s trust in law enforcement is compromised. The Department of Justice will continue to hold such officers accountable under the law.”
“Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe,” stated U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph for the Western District of Louisiana. “The vast majority of law enforcement officers perform their difficult and dangerous duties with integrity and courage. However, law enforcement officers who betray the badge and the public’s trust, as the defendant did here, also dishonor their profession and their fellow officers. This behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the Western District of Louisiana.”
“Police officers respond to challenging and dynamic situations every day,” noted FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Andrew Anderson of the New Orleans Field Office. “They are trained to maintain professionalism and adhere to standards of conduct in any situation. In this instance, the officer did not apply his training and violated the constitutional rights of the victim. Instances such as this are unacceptable and will continue to be high priority investigations of the FBI.”
Hammac faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a $250,000 fine. This week, the Lake Charles Police Department publicly released the dash cam footage depicting Hammac beating an unarmed man in the act of surrender. His sentencing is scheduled for November 14.