A Chicago infectious disease specialist became the subject of a viral video when cellphone footage of his violent arrest in New Orleans’ French Quarter was posted to Facebook.
Dr. Michael Hoffman, a doctor at Northwestern Memorial Hospital who also is on the faculty of Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, was body-slammed by a Louisiana State Police trooper on Bourbon Street in the early-morning hours Sunday.
The altercation and rough takedown was filmed by a cellphone-wielding bystander, who watched as Hoffman’s seemingly calm conversation with the trooper suddenly escalated into a one-sided wrestling match that left the doctor injured and in handcuffs. The video, posted to Facebook, had been viewed more than 700,000 times before it was taken down Wednesday evening. Copies posted to YouTube by various New Orleans news outlets have been viewed several hundred times each. The person who shot the video could not be reached by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Hoffman faces a municipal summons for misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest, public intoxication, disturbing the peace and criminal trespassing in connection with the incident, which Louisiana State Police said began with Hoffman arguing with a bouncer as he tried to retrieve his credit card from a Bourbon Street bar.
Hoffman’s New Orleans-based attorney, Steve London, said Hoffman has returned to Chicago and is being evaluated for injuries that include severe bruising and, possibly, broken ribs. Hoffman is weighing whether to file a lawsuit or report the incident to federal authorities, London said.
“I have never seen anything like it,” London said. “These guys weren’t rowdy. There’s just no way you need to put your hands on these guys.”
Top officials in the Louisiana State Police disagree.
“Right now, we have no complaint filed by Mr. Hoffman, and our supervisors and training academy have reviewed the video and saw nothing wrong,” said Trooper Melissa Matey, spokeswoman for the LSP district that includes New Orleans. “The trooper acted appropriately given the circumstances.”
Matey said the trooper had finished his shift around 4 a.m. and was flagged down by a bar staff member who said Hoffman and his brother had refused to leave The Beach, a popular Bourbon Street bar that closes at 4 a.m.
London said Hoffman was at the bar with his brother and had closed out their tabs and wanted to leave but their server had not returned with their credit cards. When they complained about the wait, a bouncer threw them out, London said.
“(Hoffman) called the police,” London said. “They weren’t making trouble. They figured the police might be able to help get their cards back.”
The video shows the Hoffmans talking calmly, if animatedly, with the trooper outside the bar on Bourbon Street for several minutes.
The trooper reaches for Hoffman, apparently to make an arrest, a man identified as Hoffman’s brother, stepped between the trooper and Hoffman. The trooper pushed Hoffman’s brother into a row of trash cans, then grabs Hoffman and throws him against a wall. Hoffman’s brother was not arrested.
The trooper pushes Hoffman against a wall, as Hoffman, apparently noticing the man filming with his cameraphone, says “you’re on video.” The trooper shoves Hoffman into the doorway of a chicken restaurant next door to the bar, then heaves the physician to the floor and handcuffs him.
Rafael Goyeneche, a former Orleans Parish prosecutor who now heads the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a New Orleans municipal watchdog group, said he saw nothing wrong with the officer’s takedown.
State Police troopers have patrolled the French Quarter alongside New Orleans police for about two years to beef up police presence in the city’s top tourist district after a 2014 shooting that left a 23-year-old bystander dead.
“The trooper doesn’t know who he’s dealing with. He has to take control of the situation. He attempted to use an ‘arm bar,’ and when that didn’t work, they’re trained to take the suspect to the ground,” Goyeneche said.
“People aren’t used to seeing these kinds of things on video. They might say, ‘This is a doctor, you don’t need treat him like that.’ Well, the trooper doesn’t know he’s a doctor.”
London said the force used to subdue Hoffman was excessive.
“These guys weren’t causing trouble. They were talking to a police officer,” London said. “You can say they were a little intoxicated, but that’s Bourbon Street. That’s what we advertise here, we want you to be a little intoxicated. We don’t say, ‘If you come down here and you look at a cop the wrong way, you may get spiked like a football.'”