A dancer at the 22nd annual Tunica Biloxi Pow Wow in May 2017. Photo: Tunica-Biloxi Tribe

Tunica-Biloxi Tribe denies shakedown by chief of police for event on reservation

Leaders of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe are denying their chief of police attempted to extort money from the organizers of an event on the reservation.

The Louisiana Voice first reported on the alleged shakedown of the Step-N-Strut Trail Ride. The online news outlet said Harold Pierite Sr., in his capacity as a member of the Louisiana State Police Commission, demanded $35,000, then $10,000, in cash for law enforcement services during the three-day event earlier this month.

Pierite, who serves as the tribe's chief of police, eventually settled for "about $4,000," according to The Voice.

Following the publication of the story, Vice Chairman Marshall Ray Sampson, Sr., and Pierite, who also serves on the tribal council, issued a statement denying the alleged shakedown. The tribe's Economic Development Council was paid via a check for $4,500, the leaders said.

But that was for hosting the event, not for law enforcement services, according to the statement. The funds "were the only funds that were transferred between Step-N-Strut and the tribe," the leaders said, a denial of Pierite's alleged receipt of cash.

Event organizers, though, are standing by their account of their interactions with Pierite, The Avoyellles Journal reported in a follow-up story. They paid a total of $32,000 for law enforcement services -- directly to police officers who worked the event, the paper said. Tribal and state officers worked the event.

But the tribe was not paid for those services, the paper said. The $32,000 payment is incidentally close to the $35,000 Pierite was alleged to have sought from organizers, indicating there may have been confusion about what transpired at the event. In posts on Facebook, one organizer and other attendees defended their version of their interactions with Pierite.

Read More on the Story:
Tribe says Step-N-Strut claims are false (The Avoyellles Journal November 29, 2017)
Tunica-Biloxi Tribal Council Vice Chair, Police Chief deny content of Thursday’s story of shakedown claim—belatedly (The Lousiana Voice November 19, 2017)
Trail ride organizers claim State Police Commission member Pierite attempted $10,000 shakedown of Tunica-Biloxi event (The Lousiana Voice November 16, 2017)