Hard Times in Bunkie, Louisiana


An update to this post can be found here.

At a glance, Bunkie looks like any other cash-strapped central Louisiana town.  It’s a jumble of crumbling shacks, modest bungalos and a clutch of picturesque mansions straight out of Gone with the Wind.   Bunkie used to be a predominantly white community, but as one old timer told me, “the old whites are dying and the young whites are movin’ out–pretty soon you got yourself a black majority.  Used to be the east side was black and the west side was white, with Highway 71 as the divider.  But now a lot of black folks are buying homes on the west side.  That causes conflict; a lot of whites don’t want to live around blacks.”

I first visited Bunkie on February 22, 2007; exactly one year ago.  I had been organizing the families of the Jena 6 and Tony Brown, a radio personality in nearby Alexandria, had interviewed me on his morning talk show. 

“You’ve got to come down to Bunkie,” Denise Atkins told me, “we got it real bad down here.”

Denise arranged a public meeting in an old restaurant that was in the process of renovation.  A crowd of thirty showed up for fried chicken and conversation.  Everyone wanted to talk about Chad Jeansonne, a detective with the Bunkie Police Department who had learned every trick in the drug war manual. 

Moments into the meeting, several participants noticed a shadowy figure lurking in a darkened corner of the room.  A middle aged black woman in the uniform of the Bunkie Police Department emerged from her hiding spot and confronted her accusers.

“What you doin’ spying on us?” somebody asked.  “I’ve seen you on those raids where the cops come busting in without no warrant.  You know how they do us!”

The officer was unrepentant.  “If ya’ll would quit doing drugs and hanging out on the street corner you wouldn’t have nothing to worry about!”

 “We all work hard for our money,” a young woman shot back.  It was a familiar conversation: Mos Def meets Bill Cosby.  The disgruntled officer sauntered out of the room.

A few days later, I got a phone call from an officer with the Louisiana State Police.  “Hello Dr. Bean,” a pleasant voice said.  “I hear you’ve been down to Bunkie talking to some folks and I was just curious about your business.”

“I was invited to Bunkie by some concerned citizens,” I replied.

“What were they concerned about?”

“Oh, the usual,” I replied.  “Racial profiling, warrantless searches, and coerced testimony and plea agreements.  But the conversation kept coming around to one officer in particular: a fellow named Jeansonne; Chad Jeansonne.”

“Well, I’m sure your investigation will lead you to the conclusion that Mr. Jeansonne is a fine officer doing really good work for us down there in Bunkie.”

This prophecy has gone unfulfilled.  After chatting with four ex-Bunkie police officers who had worked with Jeansonne I started taking the complaints emerging from Bunkie’s poor black community much more seriously.  Unsubstantiated rumors make the rounds in little towns and I have learned to suspend judgment.  But as one attorney who has defended dozens of clients in Avoyelles Parish recently told me: “When you got one defendant saying the cops are planting evidence and faking drug cases, you brush it off.  But when every guy you represent has the same story, you start to see a pattern.  All these little towns have bad cops; but this Jeansonne fellow is totally out of control.”

I haven’t been able to do much with the horror stories emerging from Bunkie, Louisiana.  The allegations are serious, but most of it ends in a he-said-she-said standoff.  The story of Larry Bazile is different.

Larry Bazilep2183956-1.jpg

Larry Bazile is a big man with a drug conviction on his record–par for the course for black males in towns like Bunkie.  Bazile took a plea offer for a probated sentence when the prosecutor told him he didn’t stand a chance in court.  The evidence against him was sketchy at best; but Larry knew what happened when black males roll the dice with a jury in Avoyelles Parish.  Now, twenty years later, he spends most of his time caring for Pearly Bazile, his seventy-six year-old mother.  

On December 1, 2006, at six in the morning, officers from the Bunkie Police Department, assisted by two FBI agents, knocked on Larry Bazile’s door.  When Bazile didn’t open immediately, an officer began kicking the door impatiently.  “Hold on,” Larry called out as he opened the door.

In seconds, Bazile had been knocked to the floor.  He was asking to see a search warrant while they handcuffed his hands behind his back.  He asked for a warrant three more times during the raid, but the papers were never produced.

Officers rousted Pearly Bazile out of bed even after being informed that she was an invalid.  Young children were crying (over a year later, they are still afraid of the police).  Several relatives from out of town, in their early-to-mid twenties, had been staying the night.  They too were handcuffed.  

An officer called one of the young men into the bathroom.  He was holding a bottle of prescription pain medication in his hand.  “I’m gonna charge you with this,” the officer said, “unless you tell me what the big guy’s been doing.”  The big guy in question was Larry Bazile.

Larry and his young friends were hauled down to the Police Department shed, then transported to the lock-up in neaby Marksville.  Larry was charged with conspiracy.  A relative visiting from Dallas was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia (the pill bottle). 

Over a year later, Larry Bazile is still awaiting his day in court.  When I first talked to him he had no idea where the conspiracy charge came from.        



Unlike most poor black defendants, Larry Bazile isn’t alone.  Jerriel Bazile, a Dallas real estate man, and Gaythell Smith, a Dallas police officer (pictured above) have taken a passionate interest in their brother’s case.  For months, their persistant questions went unanswered.  Finally, Jerriel filed a freedom of information request for the complete records surrounding the case and prosecutor Charles Riddle turned over the pertinent materials.

The changes against Larry Bazile can be traced back to November 16, 2006, the day an FBI officer allegedly purchased $40 of crack cocaine from the defendant.  Detective Chad Jeansonne filed several different reports over a period of three months, all supposedly based on the testimony of an unnamed FBI agent. 

But there’s a problem: three irreconcilable accounts of the alleged drug buy emerge from these documents.  In one version, the FBI agent came to Bazile’s residence alone.  In version two, the agent is accompanied by an unnamed confidential informant.  In yet a third version, the agent came to Bazile’s home with a second defendant, Lloyd Robinson.

Is Jeansonne a busy cop with a faulty memory, or is there some method in this madness?  To understand the glaring inconsistencies in Jeansonne’s reports you have to understand that less than 5% of narcotics cases ever go to trial.  Generally, the government drops the charges or, more frequently, the case is settled by a plea bargain.  Jeansonne wrote three irreconcilable versions of the alleged drug buy to fit three separate prosecutorial strategies.

Bazile could be charged with participating in a conspiracy with Lloyed Robinson-hence, it would be convenient if Robinson participated in the buy.  If Robinson refused to cooperate, the state could produce a confidential informant to testify that he had accompanied the FBI agent to Bazile’s home.  Failing that, the case could be made simply on the uncorroborated word of the FBI agent (the least appealing of the three options since there was no marked money and no video, audio or photographic evidence). 

The legal mystery was partially solved a few weeks ago when the prosecution placed Lloyd Robinson on the stand in the course of a short-lived pre-trial hearing.  Robinson admitted that he had called Larry Bazile on the day in question, but adamantly denied accompanying the FBI agent to Bazile’s home.  When Robinson started talking about going with the agent to the home of a third party (who was never charged) he was silenced. 

“The deal is off,” an enraged prosecutor bellowed.  “It’s off.”

The prosecution knows the Bazile family is in possession of Chad Jeansonne’s creative writing assignments, but they don’t appear to be worried.  If the judge rules the reports inadmissible in court it’s as if they didn’t exist.

With the conspiracy strategy off the table, how will the state proceed? 

They could produce a confidential informant willing to verify the alleged transaction.  This would be relatively easy.  Jeansonne, my sources tell me, has a covey of troubled young men in the drug underworld willing to offer assistance when necessary.  Jeansonne, they say, believes his informants implicitly.  You offer an informant a sum of money to tell the story your way, or you threaten to send him off to prison if he gets his testimony wrong, or perhaps you work it both ways.  It’s easy to produce witnesses in narcotics cases and, so long as they are singing in harmony with police officers, juries believe every word that falls from their lying lips.

Or maybe the State of Louisiana will produce an FBI agent willing to testify under oath that he purchased drugs from Larry Bazile unaccompanied by either Lloyd Robinson or an informant.  But how would our hypothetical agent feel about being associated with so many discrepant versions of a simple story?

Normally, he wouldn’t have to worry because no one but the prosecutor would be aware of the discrepancies.  But now, thanks to the tenacious detective work of Jerriel Bazile, the truth is out.

The government wants this thing to go away.  If Larry will admit to selling drugs the state would be happy to give him five years probation.  But Larry doesn’t want to be “on paper” for a crime he didn’t commit.  He’s been down that road and has no appetite for a repeat performance.

You may be wondering how Chad Jeansonne has been able to hide his low down ways from his superiors in Avoyelles Parish. 

He hasn’t. 

Over the past year I have made six separate trips to Bunkie and have spoken to dozens of residents, including four former colleagues of Mr. Jeansonne.  I have spoken with defense attorneys who have tried cases based on Jeansonne’s handiwork.  Everyone knows that Mr. Jeansonne isn’t what they call “real police”.  He’s the kind of officer that gives the profession a bad name.

 So why doesn’t anybody deal with this guy?

There are so many reasons why Chad Jeansonne remains free to work his dreadful magic.  First of all, he restricts his malice to the poor end of the black side of town.  Secondly, he produces results that make his superiors look good–lots of drug convictions.  Third, I am told that he is always professional when in the company of state police officers. 

But there is a fourth reason: it is in no one’s best interest to take Mr. Jeansonne down.

Suppose you take a public stand against a dirty cop and nobody backs you up?  The mayor and the DA and the judge all stand by their man.  Suppose you are a defense attorney.  If you anger the local constabulary (or the prosecutor, or the judge) you will suddenly be out of work in that Parish. 

So everybody yields to the status quo and hundreds of poor people on the black end of town remain locked in a nightmare.  This scenario is playing out in hundreds of little towns across America.  Bunkie is a particularly egregious case of normal.

We had another community meeting in Bunkie this past Monday.  About 40 concerned residents crowded a tiny livingroom, each one desperate to tell their story.  People spoke of sleepless nights, ulcers, high blood pressure and deep depression.  Looking into those faces I decided the time for silence was over.  The world needs to learn about Chad Jeansonne and the public officials who cover for him.

An update to this post can be found here.

28 thoughts on “Hard Times in Bunkie, Louisiana

  1. Excellent work! Please don’t stop! The light you are shining on Central Louisiana is well over 100 years overdue.

    Sad to say – but my enthusiasm for the fight for justice is long gone. I, along with over a million other older Americans, have moved to Mexico – disgusted with the downward path our society seems bent on traveling…. but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love “home” dearly – and wish, with all my heart, that these outrages could/would stop.

  2. You know, ‘Police’ is an industry. Picking on poor folks is an easy way too make an industry out of an otherwise paperwork-filled job. I see evidence of this in the fact that police vans for holding prisoners are called Paddy Wagons. That’s where they put the drunk Irish immigrants once upon a time when they were the targets. This isn’t a new story unfortunately.

    To get to the bottom of this, we have to view the police as humans with simple motivations that corrupt them and make them bad people. They could be good parents, good church members, perhaps even professionals when called on. But when they feel they need to hit their arrest numbers to gain or maintain their status, they’ll do anything, without regard to the lives of those affected, to stay afloat.

    I’m not trying to drum up sympathy for a man that has clearly chosen the wrong path and now finds profit in the jailing and manipulating of people without due process. I’m just saying that we have to remember how they get started, and how they get away with this filth. This is literally how these guys keep themselves busy. We can see here how idle hands are indeed the devil’s tools.

    But this is only one aspect, only one motivation. Poor people do drugs too. Sometimes they sell them. No one is innocent here. As well, there’s always the racial component, and the arrest-numbers motivation, crooked judges, ambitious DAs… And yet, even when we look at it all together, it’s just a gumbo of human frailties.

    Perhaps if we continue to shed light on people who have gotten lazy and taken the easier, weaker path of corruption, we can convince people to do the hard work involved in Justice. I’m sure it isn’t easy, but if you get paid to be a cop, it’s your job to do the hard work.

    Thank you Alan for continuing to shed light on people who need help. Both the poor and the police who serve them.

  3. An “egregious case of normal” — as always, you tell the story frankly and with vitality, Alan.Thank goodness for reporting that sheds light on parts of the country that are often forgotten.

  4. Did you know that the national average for convictions in general across the United states is over 97%?

    The laws of averages can not support this number. The law enforcement community can not be right that number of times. It is impossible.

    The U.S. has 4 % of the worlds population and 96% of the worlds attorneys. So, Laws , lawyers and law enforcement are getting way out of hand. We as a country are now the # 1 incarcerator in the world per capita.

  5. Alan and Nancy,
    Wonderful to see you hold the same passion as I observed in you those 4 years ago at the FOR Conference in LA

    Love and best wishes for your work

    Martin McAnallen

  6. Just more false crap these drug dealers always claim the evidence was planted they are just abusing you because your so stupid to report the crap they tell you.

    Forget about it La is going to keep putting black criminals in jail no mater what you say and if you keep on you may end up in jail yourself.

  7. Jim, thank you for your thoughts. If you read carefully, you will notice that I never claim that drugs were planted (although that happens far more than most people realize). I’m sure the government can produce a baggie of crack cocaine–or a ton, for that matter. Linking the drugs to a particular defendant, however, requires credible testimony. When you have three mutually exclusive versions of an alleged crime, and there isn’t a shred of corroboration, you have reasonable doubt. This case wouldn’t be touched by most prosecutors.

    I am curious about your last comment. Do you believe the state of Louisiana would lock me up for exercising my First Amendment rights? Surely not!

    Alan Bean

  8. That arrest is crazy; it is all too common in law enforcement today. An officer’s written documents pertaining to an arrest cannot be thrown out or dismissed, even by a judge. Those documents are what’s called “Rosario Material’, and have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in criminal cases. If the officer’s written arrest documents are deemed inaccurate or false, then the validity of the arrest becomes questionable, and often times leads to the case being thrown out or the charges dismissed. I would also recommend that the defense attorney request the Police Department provide the arresting officers past complaint (allegations of misconduct) and disciplinary history. This is usually public information, or he can request the court subpoena the information.

    Dr.Bean has taken his personal time to help individuals that may have been handled inappropriately. You must respect a man for this courage. Too often we don’t get involved because it is not our problem, but if you think about it, it is our problem. When we let injustice go on, we all pay for it. Dr. Bean is fighting for all of our rights and we want to say Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

  9. As usual we see you or only hearing and taking one side of the story just as you did in Jena. You accuse the officer, the District Attorney, the FBI, the State Police, local officials all being involved in some sort of conspiracy, but no where in your creative article did you mention that your investigation lead you to speak to any of these people for their side of the story. Or maybe you did and chose not to mention what they had to say because that may put a damper on your cause, and without a cause no $$ donations. It seems Dr. Bean you only attack small departments and small communities whom have know way of defending themselves against the half truths (only the drug dealers side of the story) or racial allegations you lodge against them in the media. Why do you never attack the bigger departments in large cities, is it because this type stuff doesn’t happen their, or maybe they have the money and legal means to defend themselves.

  10. As I suspected Doc, I must have hit a nerve to have my last post taken down. It’s common knowledge on the streets the drug dealers or using you and your organization to get the heat off them. According to friends in the media in central La. your credibility is zero with them after Jena. When Mycal Bell stood up in open court with the best team of lawyers the NAACP could buy and still plead guilty, admitted to the conspiracy and agreed to testify against the other six, out went FOJ and your credibility. It’s ashame you still try to destroy the names of police officers on the words of drug dealers and convicted felons.

  11. Another one taken down!!!! Everyone needs to take the time to go to the courthouse and pull the public arrest records for Denise Atkins boys and for Larry Bazile. WOW!! Not just drug but a whole bevy of charges. I guess they or innocent of those too, wait maybe it’s been a conspiracy all along. Shame on those bad policeman trying to protect the people from the Atkins and Mr. Bazile. By the way the records at the clerks office or 25 cents a page to copy, cost me a small fortune to copy and mail to the press, but worth it for the truth to be told!!!!!

  12. Jim:
    I assure you the NAACP had nothing to do with Mychal Bell’s legal team. If you read my stuff carefully, you will note that I was, and remain, agnostic on the subject of whether Bell hit Barker. His claims of innocence didn’t mean he was innocent, and his guilty plea doesn’t mean he’s guilty–it just means he felt it was in his best interest to take the state’s offer. Bell’s willingness to testify against the other defendants isn’t that important since he claims he saw nothing after the initial blow was struck. The main reason for suspecting Bell’s guilt was the force of the blow that decked Barker coupled with Bell’s record. On the other hand, the state’s case was complicated by eyewitness reports naming another student as the hitter (one of the witnesses being a coach who says he was right on top of the action). Why Bell took the plea only God knows. His attorneys were adamant that they were going to trial right up until the end.

    Now, on to your claim that I question the integrity of police officers. Mr. Jeansonne threw his own integrity into question when he filed a series of reports that are mutually exclusive. Even if you conclude that the officer made an honest series of mistakes, the prosecutor shouldn’t be taking this case to trial–there is reasonable doubt by definition. That he insists on going ahead with the case raises serious problems about his professional ethics. If he drops the charges I will be satisfied. I am not taking the word of the accused over the word of the officer; I am taking the contradictory statements made by the officer and asking which story the man wants us to believe.

    As for my credibility with the media, Jim, I suspect your source is about as reliable as the fellow that told you the NAACP was backing Mychal Bell’s legal team.

    Finally, JT, I have made no claims about Denise Atkins and her family. She has never raised concerns about charges made against her own family; her concern is with charges levelled against friends in the community to whom she is not related. I have been investigating this stuff for over a year now and didn’t move forward until a police officer handed me a smoking gun. My account makes it clear that Larry Bazile has been in trouble with the law in the past. He has never tried to present himself to me as a choirboy. The question is whether the charges he is currently facing make any sense. I am saying they don’t and I fail to understand how anyone could read the various reports and conclude otherwise. This kind of sloppy police work lends credence to the concerns of other Bunkie residents.

    There will be a sit down meeting with public officials in Bunkie that I may or may not attend. These things need to be arranged carefully. But the charges against Larry Bazile are a matter of public record. If you are going to deprive an American citizen of his freedom you better have your ducks in a row. There ducks are all over the pond.

  13. So the naacp did not pay for the Jena six legal team, someone did and I suspect it wasn’t the families. Why didn’t you answer the other points mr. tassin made concerning bigger cities, your donations, and the law enforcement side of the story. In your response to JT you said if the DA drops the charges YOU will be satisfied, or what, you will try and destroy his name in the media just as you did the Jena D A. You say a policeman gave you a smoking gun, would that be one of the ex-bunkie police officers you mentioned. Why or THEY EX police officers? Did it ever occur to you they may have manufactured this smoking gun! I don’t believe you have a smoking gun Dr. Bean, just a bleeding heart and a very good con for personal financial gain. It a shame you destroy people’s reputations for such a selfish cause. If it isn’t illegal it should be!

  14. Sam:
    Mychal Bell’s attorneys were serving pro bono–you may attach whatever cynical conclusions to that fact you wish. I focus on stories as they come to me. In my experience, small towns are often affected by abuse issues more than cities because they often can’t afford the best personnel, there frequently isn’t a large minority middle class, and a number of related reasons. I said I would be satisfied if the DA dropped the charges because I don”t speak for the family, I have seen copies of all the important documents–nothing was manufactured. If you think I do what I do for financial gain I would gladly swap incomes with you. The reputations of the folks I highlight do just fine, largely because they reflect local attitudes. Heck, Reed Walters in LaSalle Parish got to write a New York Times guest editorial–so it works both ways. The law enforcement side of the story is reflected in the paper work filed by Mr. Jeansonne. That’s the problem.

  15. My Sweet, intelligent, gentle, spiritual Mother was from Bunkie, a family with pride and joy from Bunkie. For my Mother, my sister, and myself, since my Father who died through a suspicion of events, was our protector and we did not realize it. We have had our inheritance stolen, seen a corrupt court system in at least 10 different ways, had the most respected attorneys lie, omit, remove from depo, swap out cases, conspire, withhold evidence, conflict of interest, withhold supena evidence, and ultimately manslaughter in the case of my Mother. Other malpractice that I cannot prove but will not rest until I do. A whole life of dedication to God and Country by my parents, to be tortued by all connected in the end, manipulated by the court system, the Dept of Hospitals, attorney’s (“I just hired the most corrupt attorney in town”), a quote from my brother that I have never got out of my mind. So many hints but never did I think there was so much corruption built into the Louisiana system of many government agencies. I am white (Sorry), female, 65, divorsed, my sister, close to the same. What was done to us is being done to many at this very moment. There has to be a platform for which to bring these malpractice, corrupt issues that the local, corrupt politicians, judicial personnel cover up, or go after in unsavory ways. I do not have a college education, but I have worked in all facets for some 40 years. I know corruption when I see, feel, and hear it. Yet, I do not dear go to the DA, or anyone else locally, or even in Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge is just a hotline for the local.

  16. Pingback: Friends of Justice

  18. Of course the uncle sam plantation people are always the victims. They never do any wrong. The white man is always at fault. I was raised in Bunkie and at one time it was to me, the greatest place to live. Now it is nothing. I wonder why? I wonder why New Orleans is like it is? I think some people move to small towns like Bunkie because there is no work there. Just wait for the mail man to bring that welfare check. This is nothing more than what liberal socialist like FDR LBJ and Obama brought to Bunkie.

  19. I was actually looking for family members in Bunkie HANKINS FAMILY when I stumbled upon this page. I had no idea bunkie was going through such turmiol. I would like to commend the originator of this blog and I intend to follow it. I am at this point lost for words after reading about how life is in Bunkie. Something has to be done about these racist police officers. They are everywhere. We have a real problem in Beaumont Texas as well the police officers clearly hate anyone who is not black and it is obvious. we have a town hall metting of sorts comming up in the near future to try and address the problem, but I dont see any real improvement comming unless these officers are held accountable for thier actions and put in the jail they indended for us!!!!

  20. In the privious comment I stated that the police hated anyone who is not black that was a typo!!! they hate anyone who is not white. They are terrible and have continiously taken the law in thier own hands and created problems for people of color for a very long time.

  21. Im a white guy from bunkie louisiana. That being said i can attest to the racial profiling that has run rampant through the small city. Growing up I come from a middle class family and went to the public school on the east side of the tracks. the neighborhood is in really bad shape and drug use is horribly high in the entire city. bunkie needs help and not from the inside, its a closed off city with to many closed minds unwilling to change views.
    as for the coment about the young white population moving out because the black people moving in i disagree for the most part, I and many others in my shoes moved away from bunkie because of the drugs. Ive had many family members addicted to different drugs throughout the years and i dont want to be part of that. There are still crooked cops in bunkie without a doubt, i guarntee only half of the drugs recovered makes it to the evidence locker and thats sad.

  22. I live in Arnaudville,La. A police officer told me recently that when they arrest the drug dealers 2 days later he sees them walking down the street so whats the point in picking them up in the first place.I had no idea that Bunkie was like that.I will leave everyone with this note,EVERY TONGUE SHALL CONFESS AND EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW IN THE EYES OF THE ALMIGHTY GOD.People are thinking they r getting away with what they r doing,but GOD don’t sleep for no one. By the way I know the Haggers from bunkie.Nice folks

  23. As a white woman who grew up in Bunkie, I can promise you things like this happen ALL the time there. I personally know of a murder case that was covered up because the police didn’t want Bunkie to look bad. Break ins and suicides don’t happen on the exact same night…

Comments are closed.