CORRECTION: Changes a previous version of the story to say that Collin Kleckley received an honorable discharge from the Air Force.
LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Two former Lake Charles Police officers were sentenced to 5 years probation on Tuesday after both pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of deprivation of rights under color of law in federal court.
The prosecutor argued in court Tuesday that Hebert caused bodily injury by hitting the driver 20 to 30 times in the abdomen with his LCPD-issued baton. She said when originally interviewing Hebert, it was something he denied, but by the end of the interview, he had accepted responsibility.
Hebert himself admitted he used excessive force when he pleaded guilty in August.
The prosecutor went on to say that two other officers admitted guilt in the incident and that several joked around after the incident, stating there are audio recordings.
In court Tuesday, the defense argued there was not sufficient proof the driver suffered bodily injuries from his client Hebert, saying “multiple officers were doing multiple different things” and that Hebert can not be heard striking the driver.
The defense went on to request probation due to Hebert’s family circumstances, stating Hebert has found a job working for the Department of Defense at Fort Polk.
Hebert spoke in front of the judge, apologized to those affected by the incident and spoke on his achievements while on the police force after the incident, and said he just wants to serve his sentence, work and provide for his family. It was something the judge said she considered when sentencing Hebert to 5 years probation. Judge Kay commented that bodily injury did result from Hebert’s actions, but that he could not commit this crime again as he could never work in law enforcement after his sentence. She said after reviewing all of the evidence, she believes the situation was created by more senior officers, saying it was “understandable, the nature of the incident, albeit inappropriate”.
Collin Kleckley was sentenced for his involvement in a foot pursuit and arrest that happened on July 29, 2017.
The prosecutor says Kleckley was just a rookie when he hit the suspect “well over 10 times” with his department-issued flashlight after he got the suspect to the ground, something the prosecutor says Kleckley did not admit until a 2nd witness came forward. In his initial report, Kleckley put he only hit the suspect with his fist. The prosecutor says no superior officer knew Kleckley had hit the suspect with his flashlight. LCPD says they do not have dashcam or bodycam footage of the incident. The prosecutor said this was not an isolated incident, stating he was involved in the 2017 police pursuit that Hebert and Hammac were sentenced for. Kleckley was not charged in relation to that incident.
In relation to the July 2017 incident, Kleckley admitted to striking the suspect after a foot pursuit more times than necessary when he pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law back in August. The defense stated when Kleckley struck the suspect with his flashlight it was inadvertent, saying his client Kleckley was chasing the suspect, tackled him and when he realized he was hitting the suspect with his flashlight, he discarded his flashlight.
The defense says Kleckley was trained by Robert Hammac and was “in the culture” of LCPD misconduct. The defense says his client “is a good person”, was honorably discharged from the Air Force and that after the incident, Kleckley underwent “more significant training”.
The prosecutor stated Kleckley striking the suspect in the head with his flashlight was not inadvertent, due to him admitting he struck the suspect more times than necessary. The prosecutor stated LCPD says they train their officers to refrain from striking a suspect in the head but acknowledged that type of “behavior was endorsed by several officers” at the department.
Kleckley addressed the judge saying he is sorry for his actions, that his dream job was to be a police officer, he loved his job, and that he thinks back on the incident a lot and what he could have done differently. He went on to say he is the primary breadwinner for his family, requesting no jail time. The defense said he would lose his job if he was sentenced to jail time.
He also received 5 years probation. Judge Kay stated she acknowledges Kleckley was a rookie at the time of the incident, was poorly trained, and that after the incident Kleckley admitted to inappropriate behavior and received more training. She said she hopes their sentences do not appear to be a green light for law enforcement to treat people inappropriately.
Former Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon and several current Lake Charles Police officers attended the sentencing in support of Hebert and Kleckley.
Current LCPD Chief Shawn Caldwell said in a statement on Tuesday both are no longer employed by the Lake Charles Police Department.
“The actions leading to these sentences were not in line with what we expect from Officers of the Lake Charles Police Department,” Caldwell said. “We continue to work to update our policies and this, along with constant training, will ensure that we continue to progress and improve as an agency.”
Neither Kleckley or Hebert can be employed again as law enforcement officers after their sentences, according to Magistrate Judge Kathleen Kay.