Teen allegedly beaten by Opelousas police officer speaks out

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OPELOUSAS, La. (KLFY) — The family of Jonah Coleman, a teenager who was reportedly beaten by an on-duty police officer at Opelousas General Hospital in 2019, said they are asking for improved policing policies.

They are calling for a new law that would require law enforcement body cam footage to be publicly accessible within 24 hours of an alleged brutality incident.

This comes after Opelousas Sgt. Tyron Andrepont turned himself in on five counts of malfeasance and resigned from the force in June.

Tyron Andrepont (St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office)

But during the State Police investigation into the alleged incident, Andrepont was permitted to be on paid administrative leave from November until June.

On Friday, July 3, a rally was held outside the St. Landry Parish Courthouse calling for just prosecution of Andrepont.

Jonah Coleman only spoke a few words to the crowd that supported him, but his attorney said it’s very important because most of the people he represents were not there to tell their side of the story.

“It was unexpected,” Jonah said of the incident that still haunts him and gives him nightmares.  “I didn’t think that would happen.”

Surrounded by family and community, he broke the silence admitting, “It takes everybody to come together and make a change.”

A state police investigation led to sergeant Tyron Andrepont’s arrest in June. He resigned weeks later, but Coleman’s attorney, Daryl Washington, said that is not enough.

“We’ve been very loud and clear that anything less than termination will be unacceptable,” Washington said.

Jonah is also pushing for a new law in his city that would make body camera footage available within 24 hours of an incident with police. No one outside of investigators has seen any video showing what happened to him.

Jonah’s mother, Flora Coleman confessed how emotional she has been.

“But y’all know everything happens for a reason,” she told everyone in the crowd. “God doesn’t make any mistakes.”

Her husband and Jonah’s father, John Coleman added, “It was a tragedy. We haven’t seen the video yet, but we heard about it, and it wasn’t right.”

Washington said he also holds Opelousas General Hospital accountable for calling the police noting Jonah did nothing illegal and was only receiving treatment. He called the hospital’s actions an overreaction.

“The issue that I see is when we have an African-American male, you tend to see people do things a whole lot faster than they would do with anyone else,” Washington said.

According to Washington, a security guard also took part in Coleman’s beating, and the family will seek all legal remedies available to them.

As Jonah told his supporters, “We will get justice, and this isn’t over.”

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