A former Lake Charles Police Department officer was recently sentenced in federal court for using unreasonable excessive force during an arrest. According to police dash cam video, the ex-cop repeatedly punched a man with his empty hands up in surrender.
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 put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe and we at the Department of Justice have their backs,” stated U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph. “However, those officers who betray the badge and the public’s trust, as the defendant did here, dishonor their profession and endanger the safety of their fellow officers. We will not tolerate police brutality in the Western District of Louisiana.”
“Officers who deprive individuals of their civil rights will not be tolerated,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to upholding and defending the constitutional rights of victims, as shown by today’s sentencing.”
“Former Lake Charles Officer Robert Hammac abused his position of trust and the authority handed-down to him to protect the members of the public,” asserted Special Agent in Charge Bryan Vorndran of the FBI New Orleans Field Office. “Law enforcement officers and correctional officers acting under the color of law must ensure a person’s civil rights are not violated. The FBI New Orleans Field Office, along the U.S. Attorney’s Office, will continue to uphold the constitution and protect the rights of all persons within U.S. territories.”
Lake Charles Police Chief Shawn Caldwell recently released the following statement: “Mr. Hammac has not been employed by the Lake Charles Police Department for more than two years. This incident was self-reported to the FBI and we respect the investigative and legal process. We reaffirm that the actions of Mr. Hammac and others involved in the May 2017 incident were not tactically sound, unsafe for all involved, and not what we expect for the Lake Charles Police Department.
“We have updated our pursuit policy, and retrained our Officers on how to approach pursuit stops, including when to call them off and how to approach a vehicle. Through these updated policies and constant training, we will continue to progress and improve as an agency.”
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James D. Cain Jr. sentenced Hammac to 18 months in federal prison followed by one year of supervised release.