Pursuit Suspect Beaten in Controversial Use of Force
LOS ANGELES — Police were investigating officers' use of force Wednesday during the arrest of an unarmed black man who led them on a chase after allegedly being spotted driving a stolen car.
ABC7 Eyewitness News footage showed an officer hitting the man with a flashlight at least 10 times after it appeared he had surrendered. Police said the man was not seriously injured but did complain that he had been struck in the head and suffered an injury to his nose.
"As the rest of the evening goes along, the internal affairs division personnel, in addition to our administrative folks will thoroughly unpeel the layers of this situation until we get to the truth," said Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Earl Paysinger.
Assistant Chief Sharon Papa said the FBI and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office had also opened investigations.
"What I saw jeopardizes the work that we have done to try to build that bond of trust between the department and the community," Mayor Jim Hahn said. "Now is the day that bond of trust is going to be tested."
The incident occurred just a week after the LAPD said it had successfully implemented reforms mandated by a federal consent decree after the Justice Department identified a "pattern and practice" of civil rights violations by the LAPD.
A number of community activists expressed outrage over Wednesday's incident and demanded justice.
"How much longer are we going to sit around and watch our brothers and sisters be treated like this," said Morris Griffin of the Los Angeles Coalition for Justice and Peace to End Police Brutality Committee.
Civil rights activist Najee Ali compared the incident to the 1991 beating of black motorist Rodney King.
"Here we go again," Ali said. "This is Rodney King all over again ... this has got to stop."
The incident began about 5 a.m. when LAPD officers began chasing a suspected stolen Toyota Camry in an area patrolled by the Southeast Station.
Video shot from a helicopter and aired on several stations showed the chase end on a Compton street and the suspect take off on foot. After a short pursuit, the man appeared to get down on his hands and knees and surrender to an officer.
After several other officers arrived, the man was forced to the ground, where the videotape shows an officer striking him in the upper body with a flashlight.
Police declined to release the name of the 37-year-old man, saying he had not been booked.
Paysinger also withheld the names and races of the officers but said at least two had been taken off patrol and assigned to other duties.
King was pulled over for speeding in Los Angeles' eastern San Fernando Valley, where he was beaten by police officers who said he acted menacingly and refused to follow their orders.
A nearby resident videotaped four white Los Angeles officers pummeling King with their nightsticks and feet and shooting him with stun-gun darts. Numerous other officers stood by watching.
After a jury acquitted the officers in 1992, riots broke out across Los Angeles and lasted four days, leaving 55 people dead and more than 2,000 injured.
The videotape of the King beating ran about 10 minutes. In Wednesday's incident the blows were struck within about a 20-second span. After the man got onto all fours, a lone officer pushed him to the ground and other officers ran up and closed in around him. One of the latter officers pulled out a flashlight and swung it repeatedly.
In another incident, former Inglewood Officer Jeremy Morse, who is white, was caught on tape slamming a black teenager against a patrol car and punching him in the face during an arrest in July 2002.
A judge dismissed an assault charge against Morse after two juries deadlocked. Morse was fired after the arrest.