Baton Rouge police accused of sexual battery against child, hitting teens at Brave Cave in federal lawsuit

Editor’s Note: The headline has been updated to address the scope of the allegations.

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — A lawsuit filed Tuesday, Feb. 20, in federal court accuses Baton Rouge Police Department officers of sexual battery against a minor, hitting two teens, and strip-searching a woman at the Brave Cave after a SWAT sting on a family home last year.

Lakeisha Varnado brought the lawsuit on her own behalf and for her two minor children, ages 15 and 17. Tredonovan Raby also jointly filed the suit with Varnado on behalf of a 12-year-old child.

The suit names Joseph Carboni, Tafari Beard, Lorenzo Coleman and two unknown BRPD officers as defendants.

According to the court filing, Varnado and her three sons woke up early June 6, 2023, to BRPD officers busting down the doors and windows of their home.

October 2023: New lawsuit alleges more strip searches, beatings at ‘black sites’ tied to Brave Cave

The then-11-year-old was in his room, reportedly told to come out with his hands up. The child, who was in his underwear, was taken to a SWAT truck and reportedly identified as an 8-year-old.

The 15-year-old thought the house was being burgled and tried to run out the back, according to the lawsuit. An unknown BRPD officer reportedly caught him and hit the teen in the face with a stun gun before handcuffing him.

The 17-year-old, who also thought the house was being burgled, tried to leave and was tackled in the kitchen. The second unknown officer reportedly hit the teen in the face multiple times. The suit says it was without provocation.

According to the lawsuit, the use of force wasn’t recorded by BRPD, and both of the older children complained about being hit.

The 11-year-old, who had been detained separately, was crying and rocking in the back of a police vehicle, still in his underwear. He told police he wanted to go to his mom and pointed to the car she was being held in. When he was let into the car with her, a report said he could be seen sobbing and hugging her.

He was kept in the back of a police vehicle without clothing for “an hour or two,” according to the suit, and he was crying too hard to talk to his mother. During his time in the car, he became more upset after watching one of his brothers being hit with a Taser.

The boy reportedly asked to use the bathroom about six times in 30 minutes and had been woken up from his sleep by the SWAT raid. He was not allowed to use the facilities at that time, according to the suit.

The child was eventually told by the first unknown officer to “shut the ‘h’ up” and “go put clothes on,” according to the suit. He was taken into the house to get dressed before being put in another BRPD unit.

The family was reportedly taken to the BRAVE cave. Their home was left unsecured, according to the suit.

No audio or video, such as body camera footage, exists of their time at the black site, according to the suit.

Varnado was reportedly taken from her children and strip-searched.

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When the 11-year-old asked to use the bathroom, one of the officers reportedly also strip-searched, then cavity-searched the child, including touching his genitals and anus.

The 15-year-old was reportedly separated from his mom and dragged into a holding cell. The suit accuses an officer of choking and punching the teen hard enough to knock him out.

The BRPD Street Crimes Unit was disbanded in 2023 following other allegations of inappropriate searches and police beatings.

Varnado and her children are asking for a trial by jury and $5 million, including damages.

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