By Matt Williamson
A Mississippi Highway Patrol state trooper has been cleared of wrongdoing in an Aug. 5 arrest that was the subject of a viral live-streamed video in which two brothers alleged a third was being mistreated when he was being detained.
“A review of this incident by MBI agents and command staff produced no evidence of criminal conduct by the trooper throughout the encounter,” Mississippi Bureau of Investigations Director Lt. Col. Charles Haynes said Friday.
The Mississippi Department of Public Safety released on Friday 40 minutes of video of Trooper Hayden Falvey’s arrest of Eugene Lewis and his brothers Gary “Packer’’ Lewis and Derrius Lewis. It included dash cam video, along with video of a rear-facing camera pointing at the seat in the patrol car for a person under arrest. DPS officials also released audio of the encounter and synched the in-car footage with the live streamed video.
“MHSP’s internal review of this matter revealed no evidence of excessive force,” said Lt. Col. Malachi Sanders, Director of the MHSP Enforcement Division. “All evidence indicates that Trooper Falvey demonstrated exemplary patience, judgment and skill in maintaining the safety of all involved throughout what could have easily become a tragic incident.”
DPS officials said Falvey stopped Eugene Lewis after he allegedly was speeding on Delaware Avenue, passing vehicles in the right lane and accelerating through a yellow light, all while not wearing a seatbelt.
Falvey stopped Lewis on Schmidt Road, which DPS officials noted is “rural and unpopulated.”
The traffic stop started out with a calm demeanor from both men.
DPS officials said the trooper smelled marijuana in the vehicle and noted Lewis’ eyes were bloodshot and glassy and his breath smelled like marijuana. Additionally, Lewis’ license was suspended.
Falvey asked Lewis if he had been smoking marijuana, he said he had about an hour earlier, which Falvey said was “no big deal.”
Falvey asked him how high he was on a scale from 0 to 10 and Lewis said about a 1 or a 2.
Falvey placed Lewis in handcuffs and searched his car but appeared to find nothing illegal.
During his search, Packer and Derrius Lewis drive by and stop, telling the trooper that he’s detaining their brother. Falvey tells them to leave.
“You can go now or you can go to jail for failure to comply,” Falvey tells them before telling Eugene Lewis, “They think they’re helping but they’re making things worse.”
Falvey tried to put Lewis inside his cruiser and threatened to subdue him when he resisted.
“If you don’t turn around I will Tase you,” he said.
Falvey asked Lewis to get inside the patrol car, and Lewis stood at the door with his back facing the seat but refused to sit down.
Falvey grabbed Lewis and forced him onto the seat. At one point, Falvey appears to grab Lewis by the neck and then uses his forearm to force Eugene Lewis into the seat. Lewis screams, “You choking me!”
Lewis’ brothers return to the scene at this point and Eugene Lewis yells, “He’s beating me up, man!”
Falvey turned his attention to the brothers and Eugene Lewis, who wasn’t restrained by a seat belt, got out of the patrol unit when the patrolman’s back was turned and started swearing at Falvey.
Falvey ordered Lewis to lay on the ground, and he refused, and Falvey called for backup.
“All three Lewis men ignored repeated commands by Trooper Falvey to return to their respective vehicles (E. Lewis to the police cruiser),” DPS officials said in a news release. “All three men continuously shouted expletives at Trooper Falvey and made it clear that they had no intention of following his commands. This placed Trooper Falvey in an untenable position and created a dangerous situation for all four men.”
A bystander showed up to the scene and asked Falvey if he needed help and Falvey told him backup was on the way and asked him to keep an eye on Packer and Derrius Lewis to make sure they didn’t try to attack him from behind.
Around that time, Falvey and Eugene Lewis struggled in the street and ended up in the ditch. DPS officials said Falvey “worked to secure E. Lewis with his knees and legs so that he (Falvey) would have access to the tools on his belt” in case Lewis’ brother approached him.
After Eugene Lewis said he would willingly get in the cruiser, Falvey helped him to his feet and returned him to the vehicle, but Lewis resisted again before Falvey was finally able to buckle him in, DPS officials said.
Falvey told the other brothers that they were going to jail for interfering with the traffic stop, and Eugene Lewis started to complain that he felt like he was having a heart attack and appears to begin convulsing.
“He’s having a seizure, man,” one of the brothers says.
“You know that’s not what people do when they have a seizure. They don’t flop up and down like a fish,” Falvey said before telling Eugene Lewis, “I’m not playing this game with you.”
Falvey removed the seatbelt and Eugene Lewis started breathing heavily.
“You done now? You’re still going to jail,” Falvey said. “It ain’t changing nothing. I hope you understand that. You done with your theatrics?”
Trooper Joshua Huhn arrived on the scene and helped Falvey detain the other two brothers, who. like Eugene Lewis, were brought in on a variety of misdemeanor charges.
“Your brother’s going to jail, and now all of y’all are catching charges because of your theatrics,” Falvey told the other two brothers. “Your brother was going to go to jail regardless.
“I was going to let y’all come get his car, to help him out a little bit, to save him a little bit of money, save him a little hardship, but since y’all want to come back down here, walk up on me while I’m trying fight with him and y’all want to act a fool, everybody’s going to jail, everybody’s car is getting towed.
“All you had to do was go on and mind your own business.”
After all three Lewises are detained, their mother arrives, and Falvey asks her to get in her car and leave.
“Nobody’s got a seatbelt on,” he said. “Please put your seatbelt on and leave.”
“Go ahead, Mama,” one of the brothers tells her.
DPS officials said they take accusations of misconduct seriously and acknowledged the public’s right to observe and record law enforcement officers on duty.
“While DPS and MHSP recognize and respect the right of citizens to observe, and even record, law enforcement officers executing their duties, those rights are not without limitations.
“As you will see, this event is a prime example of how even a routine traffic stop can quickly turn into a dangerous situation for both citizens and law enforcement officers when subjects resist arrest and when uninvolved persons interfere,” DPS Commissioner Sean Tindell said.