- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2002

An FBI investigation into the videotaped beating by police of a 16-year-old California boy has expanded to include the Justice Department's civil rights division and federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, Attorney General John Ashcroft said yesterday.
"The role of law enforcement officers in our society is to protect and serve the American people," Mr. Ashcroft said in a statement.
"The events caught on videotape in Inglewood, California, last weekend trouble me greatly, because they raise clear questions about whether that law enforcement mission was being served properly in Inglewood," he said.
Meanwhile, lawyers yesterday filed a "seven-figure" federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Donovan Jackson and his father, Coby Jackson Jr., who are black. The lawsuit claimed that Inglewood police and Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies removed both the boy and his father from a car and beat them for no reason while shouting threats and racial epithets.
"We want to send the city of Inglewood a message that we are going to prosecute this case as vigorously and roughly as they beat our clients," lawyer John Sweeney said.
The lawsuit did not name an amount for damages, but Mr. Sweeney said that lawyers involved "believe this is a seven-figure case," indicating an amount of at least $1 million.
Mr. Ashcroft dispatched Assistant Attorney General Ralph F. Boyd Jr., head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, to California to help in the probe and sent personnel from the department's Community Relations Service to assist in relieving racial tensions in the community.
A civil rights investigation by the Justice Department in the 1991 videotaped beating of Rodney King led to prison terms for two Los Angeles police officers.
Officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell were sentenced in 1993 to 30 months in prison for violating Mr. King's civil rights, despite having been acquitted in state court. The acquittal touched off three days of deadly rioting in Los Angeles.
In Saturday's incident, Donovan was slammed face down on the hood of a car after he had been handcuffed. The incident occurred after Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, who had noticed the vehicle's license plates were expired, approached the boy's father at an Inglewood gas station.
The boy exited the gas station and became involved in a scuffle, which was caught on videotape by a bystander. Donovan was taken into custody on suspicion of resisting arrest and interfering with a police officer.
In a report, Deputy Carlos Lopez said the boy failed to respond to a request to put his hands on the roof of the car and "continued to stare at me." The report said the boy then put his hand in his pocket and appeared "to manipulate something."
Deputy Lopez said the boy repeatedly ignored him when asked whether he had anything in his pocket.
The deputy said the boy became rigid during a pat-down. Deputy Lopez said he ordered the boy into a police car but the teenager "lunged at me" and he then "took him to the ground."
At that point, Deputy Lopez said, he tried to put handcuffs on the boy but was resisted. Inglewood police officers had responded to the scene and assisted in the arrest. One Inglewood officer, Jeremy J. Morse, was relieved of his duties Monday as a result of the incident.
Officer Morse has been identified as the person who slammed Donovan onto the car and then hit him.
A Jackson family member said the boy has a speech and hearing impediment, preventing him from responding promptly to commands.
Inglewood police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department have opened separate investigations into the incident.
Mr. Ashcroft said that shortly after the Justice Department's discovery of "these events in Inglewood," he asked the civil rights unit of the FBI to open an investigation. He said career attorneys in the criminal section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles will review the results of the investigation.
In addition, Mr. Ashcroft said, personnel from the Justice Department's Community Relations Service were deployed to Inglewood to provide conflict-resolution and violence-prevention services to the community.
He said Community Relations Service personnel have been in contact with the Inglewood police and community leaders to assure the community that appropriate actions will be taken.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide