Hemelt: Stories, video clips make Becker arrest conclusions hard

Published 11:45 pm Friday, March 13, 2015

Two completely different stories are the hallmarks of the ongoing coverage into the violent arrest of Brady Becker, a Reserve high school student apprehended by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Feb. 13 and charged with inciting a riot, resisting an officer, battery of a police officer and underage possession of alcohol.

The arrest took place in Metairie during festivities surrounding a Mardi Gras parade, initially sparking a media firestorm because of a graphic 37-second YouTube upload that depicted Becker receiving numerous punches to the face from arresting officer Nicholas Breaux.

That could have been the end of the story, but the following four weeks of press conferences, headlines and accusations are the sole result of the competing interests involved.

They’ve each, in startlingly specific detail, described the arrest and altercation in drastically different terms, making their case to the public. Ironically, each side has also taken pot shots at the media for reporting the statements of the other side.

Less than a week after the arrest, Becker held a press conference in which he said he was still in pain, worried and emotionally detached from everything.

“I’m still worried, and I still want to seek justice,” he said.

Becker and his attorney, David Belfield III, said the family filed complaints with the Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“We weren’t being loud, we weren’t being disruptive,” Becker said. “We weren’t being obnoxious to anyone. I noticed that these two gentlemen just walked up to my friend … and just got in his face and they were calling him names and using language with him. So I step in to help (a friend) and that is when this escalated into what it was.”

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand paints a completely different picture of what occurred.

“Mr. Becker was incredibly pissed off that we were arresting his friend, a fellow high school student, for possession of marijuana,” Normand said during a press conference last week. “That is why they started the chant, ‘(f***) the police, (f***) the pigs.’”

Later, Normand says, “Mr. Becker decides he is going to step in the middle and pushes our officer back and another individual ends up punching the other officer that was with him at that point in time.”

From Becker, “(the officer) had me by my throat. All I could do was put my hands up like this and try to get this guy off me. I had no clue he was a cop. I thought this was some random guy waving his gun at everybody and with his hand on my throat and his knees on my chest and punching me in my face.”

Normand says Becker was drunk and displayed a pattern of aggressive behavior before his arrest, and Becker and Belfield say alcohol is not important in the situation.

“It does not matter if we were drinking or if we weren’t drinking, either way, they came up to us and instigated a fight, and these undercover cops, which never identified themselves, beat a minor,” Becker said. “They took me to the ground and beat me up.”

The whole thing is sad because it has snowballed from a police apprehension into a community firestorm in which multiple students from two St. John the Baptist Parish schools have been sucked in, as well as their administrators.

Belfield has told L’OBSERVATEUR he is tired of answering questions and having to speak against false accusations.

Normand said “everybody” was incorrectly focused on the video and not correctly focused on what caused and took place during the arrest.

Becker’s camp only took days before making their statements; Normand didn’t address the media for more than two weeks.

A second video has been released but it doesn’t start early enough to prove either side as far as what took place to initiate the arrest.

Normand claims numerous witnesses back his officer’s version of the events, and many witnesses, friends and supporters surrounded Becker when he spoke to the media.

The sides are clearly drawn in this case, but for anybody who wasn’t there to witness the whole thing, conclusions have not.

Stephen Hemelt is general manager and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.