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A Decade Later New Videotaped Beating by LA Police Sparks Outrage
Inglewood: Protesters at City Hall decry brutality. Mayor says teen's civil rights were violated.
LA Times Staff Writers

July 10 2002

The official account of the videotaped beating of a 16-year-old Inglewood boy describes an increasingly tense situation in which officers repeatedly gave orders to the boy, only to be met by what they perceived as resistance.

"I asked him to place his hands on the roof," wrote Sheriff's Deputy Carlos Lopez in his report, a copy of which was shared with The Times on Tuesday. "He didn't respond and continued to stare at me."

But a family member said Donovan Jackson suffers from a speech impediment and a hearing disability that prevents him from responding promptly.

"You tell him something, and he doesn't get it right then," said his cousin Talibah Shakir, a sixth-grade teacher in Los Angeles. "He's slow to react."

Anger over the images of a white police officer striking Jackson, who is black, reached a boiling point in Inglewood, a city of 113,000 people. Protesters surged into the mayor's office Tuesday and demanded a meeting. Shadowed by Inglewood police--whose chief, Ronald Banks, was on vacation--the activists chanted: "Handcuff them! Handcuff them!"

Mayor Roosevelt Dorn confronted the 100 or so protesters who made their way to his office and echoed their denunciation of the beating. Dorn described the incident, in which at least one officer struck the handcuffed boy, as a "felony assault" and called for the officer to be fired and prosecuted.

"I can't think of anything this teenager could have done that would justify the conduct that I observed on the video," said Dorn, who served 18 years as a judge. "This young man's civil rights without question were violated."

Dorn said it appeared to him that, in addition to felony assault, the officer was guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, battery and child abuse. The officer, Jeremy J. Morse, was relieved of duty Monday.

The incident occurred Saturday, after two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies approached Jackson's father, Coby Chavis Jr., at an Inglewood gas station.

The deputies were investigating Chavis' expired license tags--Chavis says he was singled out because he is black, a charge the Sheriff's Department denies.

As they questioned Chavis, Jackson emerged from the gas station store with potato chips, and a scuffle broke out, partially captured on videotape by a bystander.

Jackson was arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest and interfering with a police officer. He was treated for his injuries and released.

Inglewood police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department have opened investigations into the incident. The FBI and Los Angeles County district attorney's office have also begun separate investigations.

But the flurry of law enforcement response did not placate those angered by the televised images of Morse slamming Jackson into a police cruiser and then striking him. Since the incident was first televised, Inglewood police have been deluged by calls, and protesters insisted Tuesday that no provocation could have justified the police actions against Jackson.

Dorn agreed. "If this teenager had spit in their face, called them all kinds of names, kicked them, attacked, once he was subdued, once he was handcuffed, he was picked up, he should have been taken to the car, not slammed face-down on the hood of a car."

Some protesters remained skeptical that significant action would be taken.

"What happened to the dudes who beat Rodney King? Not much," said Corey Stevens, 30.

The sheriff's version of the incident, the official account of the arrest, was disclosed for the first time Tuesday. Written before the videotape became public, it portrays a series of events in which authorities, not knowing that Jackson suffered from a disability, appear to have grown agitated by his refusal to heed their instructions.

According to a report written Saturday night by Lopez, the sheriff's deputy, Jackson attempted to get back to his father's car when he returned from the gas station store. Lopez asked him not to get into the car, and the boy turned and looked at the deputy "with an angered expression on his face....He was breathing hard."

Lopez told him to wait while the deputies investigated the vehicle violations, but the boy kept "intently staring" at the deputy. He put his hand in his left pocket, the report said, and appeared "to manipulate something" in his pocket.

The deputy then asked him whether he had anything in his pocket, but the boy ignored him, the report said. He asked a second time, and Jackson ignored him.

Lopez decided to pat him down for weapons, and the boy's body became rigid, the report said. He asked Jackson to sit in the patrol car. "I opened the right rear door and ordered him to sit down, he tensed his body and did not comply," Lopez wrote.

At that point, the Inglewood police officers pulled up into the gas station parking lot.

Lopez wrote that he repeatedly ordered Jackson to get into the car, and it appeared Jackson was going to comply. But he didn't, and instead moved toward the deputy, Lopez wrote. "He lunged at me, raising his hands in front of him," the report said.

Lopez then "took him to the ground" and struggled to place handcuffs on the boy's wrists. Jackson refused numerous commands to lie face-down on the ground and kept his body sideways, the report said.

"During the altercation, the suspect pulled, scratched and fought with the deputies and the officers," the report said.

Jackson's behavior at the scene, according to his family, is explainable by his condition. They say that Jackson never resisted officers and that the police attacked the boy. According to his cousin Shakir and the family lawyer, Joe Hopkins, Jackson's disability makes it especially difficult for him to process more than one command at a time.

Shakir said the family plans to file a lawsuit against the Inglewood Police Department today.

In his report, Lopez does not say whether he or other officers questioned Jackson's ability to understand them. He also never mentions that Morse struck the boy.

Sheriff's officials say the deputies will be interviewed today by department investigators.

They say a number of questions remain. Among them: Did the deputies see the altercation between the boy and the Inglewood officers? If so, what obligation do they have to report it?

Despite the omission of details about Morse's involvement, Undersheriff Bill Stonich said he did not see anything in the videotape that would lead him to believe the deputies did anything wrong.

"I have not seen ... any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of our deputies," Stonich said.

Faced with the condemnation of Inglewood's mayor and angry community reactions to the incident, some of Morse's colleagues defended the officer, who remained out of public view. The videotape excerpt of a single arrest, they said, should not be allowed to define Morse's three-year career.

Det. Neil Murray, president of the Inglewood Police Officers Assn., described Morse as a solid and dedicated cop, firmly committed to his job and the community. Morse began his police career with the Inglewood department, where he is respected by other officers, and has done a good job, Murray said.

"His reputation is a solid one. Those who have worked with Jeremy have always been impressed with his level of professional police work," he said.

Department officials refused to disclose any history of commendations or disciplinary actions, saying they were confidential.

And many police officers refused to speak about Morse's background or personal life, citing the numerous investigations.

Morse was a patrol cop, usually teamed with a partner while working in different areas of the city. On Saturday night, Morse was one of four Inglewood police officers at the scene. Morse and Bijan Darvish are white, Mariano Salcedo a Latino officer, and Antoine Crook an African American.

In a 2000 case, Morse was among officers accused of assaulting a suspect. The case was dismissed, however, when the plaintiff failed to appear in court.

J. Mitchell Steinbrecher, owner of Citicopters News Service, a freelance news video agency, said he filed a complaint against Morse and two other Inglewood officers after a run-in on April 26, 2001, in which Morse allegedly cursed and threatened him.

And last month, 32-year-old Neilson Williams accused Morse and others of handcuffing him and beating him with batons near Ashwood Park.

"The police pulled up, and they just went wild," he said. "They rolled up on me like I had robbed a bank or something."

Williams said he spent five days in the hospital, including three in the intensive care unit. Williams has filed a complaint with the Inglewood Police Department.

Inglewood Police Lt. Alex Perez confirmed the department had received a formal complaint from Williams, but declined to elaborate.

Jackson and his father returned home Tuesday evening, acknowledging reporters as they entered the house. They declined to comment.

Jackson has begun to feel unsafe in his Inglewood home, Shakir said. According to her, Jackson believes that police will return and try to punish him because the videotape has caused so much trouble.

"This is a really good kid--no drugs, doesn't cuss," said Shakir. "He doesn't understand why this was done to him."

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