Before everyone had a cell phone and the capacity to record video on the fly, a police beat down was, by sheer chance, caught on tape in Los Angeles on March 3, 1991. Public fury about racism and police brutality erupted when a portion of the video showing several LAPD officers Tasering, kicking, stomping and beating Rodney King with police batons was shown on television screens around the country. Although he was severely beaten and suffered multiple lacerations and bruises, a fractured facial bone and a broken leg, King got away with his life; others have not been so lucky.
LAPD officers Koon, Powell, Briseno, and Wind were charged in the beating. The acquittal of three of the officers spawned the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. After the L.A. riots, the Department of Justice obtained an indictment for civil rights violations against the four LAPD officers. Powell and Koon were found guilty and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Briseno and Wind were acquitted. This shocking evidence of excessive force and police brutality was a wake-up call for many Americans, as the once vague issue was suddenly thrust right into their living rooms with the evening news.
As technology's steady march forward made video cameras smaller, cheaper, and more readily available, more incidents of police brutality and misconduct, some resulting in death, have been caught on video. While in the past it was simply the word of an alleged criminal against that of a police officer, these new circumstances began leveling the playing field and the situation was changed considerably, marked by a sharp rise in excessive force and brutality investigations.
However, despite the fact that many incidents of police brutality are caught on video, not all officers involved are charged with excessive force. There are still plenty of cops who cross the thin blue line and are never charged with a crime, and keep their jobs or even get promoted.
Tasered 19 Times and Died - No Excessive Force?
Twenty-one-year-old Patrick Lee was allegedly "acting strangely" outside a nightclub in 2005 when he was tasered by police 19 times, sprayed with pepper spray and beaten with police batons for reportedly resisting arrest and died. Lee's cause of death was listed as "excited delirium," a bullshit diagnosis that has been associated with many Taser-related deaths in which drugs were a factor. His parents sued the local government, the officers and Taser international for wrongful death. The case against the local government and Taser International was dismissed and a jury later found that the officers did not use excessive force against Lee. Lawyers for the officers said that the officers "were doing their best with the tools they were given."
Mistaken Identity Leaves Man in Coma
On May 10, 2009, Christopher Harris was outside Seattle’s Cinerama Theater when an officer charged at him and slammed his head into a wall, leaving him in a coma. Police were looking for a convenience store stabbing suspect when two witnesses mistakenly identified Harris. The King County sheriff's office has nearly completed its investigation of the incident and says that it appears to have been a "tragic accident."
Alleged Orlando Police Assault Under Investigation
In Orlando, Florida, police officer Fernando Trinidad was caught on video allegedly pushing a woman down a set of stairs in a club during April, 2007. After the out-of-the-blue shove sent Jessica Asprilla flying down the stairs, Trinidad arrested her for assault and battery. After Local6 in Orlando exposed the story, Asprilla filed a formal complaint and the Orlando Police Department opened a criminal investigation of Trinidad. He has been placed on administrative duty at the airport while the investigation is underway. Aspirilla says that after her arrest, she lost her job and her reputation was damaged.
Cops Take Childhood Games Seriously
On May 11, 2009, a deputy in Palmdale, Calif. shot a 15-year-old boy who was playing "cops and robbers" with a toy gun. The child had been reported to police as someone riding a bicycle and brandishing a weapon. When police responded, they ordered the boy to drop the weapon. When he failed to drop the toy, a deputy fired and shot him in the upper body.
Officer Kicks Compliant Suspect in the Head
After a May 13, 2009 high-speed car chase south of Los Angeles, Calif. came to an end and there was nowhere left to run, the suspect gave up and threw himself face-down, spread-eagled on the ground. Shortly afterwards, a police officer who had been in pursuit is seen on video running up and kicking the suspect in the head. Other officers appeared moments later, hit the complaint suspect in the kidney with a nightstick several times before handcuffing him and taking him into custody.
Blinded, Confused and Shot in the Chest
Derek Copp, a 21-year-old college student and marijuana activist in Michigan, was shot in the chest by police while a drug warrant was being served at his home. An officer allegedly came through the back door, then blinded Copp by shining a flashlight directly in his face when he answered. Copp was unarmed and had no idea the man with the flashlight was a police officer. When he lifted his hand to shield his eyes, the officer shot him in the chest. The officer was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting.
Fresno Police Beat Restrained Homeless Man
KSEE24 News in Fresno exposed a video of police officers beating a restrained homeless man. The 52-year-old man was thrown to the ground and repeatedly punched him in the face by two officers. The Fresno police chief launched an internal investigation into the incident but has said that the beating caught on video does not tell the whole story; however, no witness statements were taken at the time of the incident.
Shot in the Back 12 TImes by Police
On New Years Day 2009, a young man in New Orleans was shot 14 times, including 12 times in the back, by police. Adolph Grimes III was found dead a block from his grandmother's home, where he had been visiting. Seven officers involved in the incident have been reassigned, but Superintendent Warren Riley refuses to answer many questions about the shooting, saying only that Grimes opened fire on the officers first. Of course, Grimes is dead and can't tell his side of the story now.
11-Year-Old Tasered by Police at School
At a middle school in Jonesboro, Tennessee, officials say police "had no choice" but to taser an unruly 11-year-old student. The student had a verbal altercation with another student that became physical. When the child did not respond to verbal commands to stop, a police officer at the school shot him twice with a Taser gun. The child was then handcuffed and taken to a juvenile detention center.
Unconscious Suspect Beaten, Kicked and Clubbed
Five of Birmingham's finest have been fired for brutally kicking and beating an unconscious suspect in January 2008. The incident was caught by a police dash cam until one of the officers realized they were being recorded and turned it off. The beating happened after a high-speed chase that ended when the suspect flipped his van. Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper said the officers may face criminal charges and additional disciplinary action may be taken against supervisors who failed to report the incident to higher-ups. Roper has directed the Internal Affairs Division track down every supervisor who saw the video of the beating, including those who have since retired. The victim, Anthony Warren, did not know he had been beaten with nightsticks and fists and had assumed he sustained all of his injuries in the crash. He learned he had been brutalized by police when the dash cam video surfaced at his trial in March 2009.
Bias and Brutality Against the Media
A news crew in El Paso was covering a traffic accident when the reporter and cameraman suddenly found themselves becoming part of the story. The crew from ABC7 arrived to report on a flipped semi and were singled out in the crowd and ordered to leave by Sgt. Raul Ramirez. When they continued filming, they were arrested, handcuffed and taken to a detention center. Reporter Darren Hunt was shoved into a chain-link fence as his arms were twisted behind his back during the arrest. Ramirez was placed on administrative duty, pending the outcome of an investigation.
Disability Provokes Police Violence
A deaf man in Fort Worth was brutalized by police a year ago after he was pulled over for speeding. What should have been a routine traffic stop turned violent when Christopher Ferrell, 43, reached for his identification to inform the officer that he is deaf. Officer J.A. Miller drew his gun, grabbed Ferrell, spun him around and slammed his head into the back windshield of the police car. Miller then forced Ferrell, who then had a broken nose and was bleeding profusely, into the police car. Miller claimed he thought Ferrell was reaching for a gun, and that is why he used excessive force against him. He was suspended without pay for two days for the incident and is appealing the decision.
Unarmed Man Shot Dead in the Street by Police
On the eve of his wedding in November 2006, Sean Bell was gunned down by police outside a Queens strip club. Bell was unarmed when he and his companions were shot at 50 times by police officers. The three plainclothes undercover officers who shot and killed Bell and seriously wounded his friends were acquitted of manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges in a non-jury trial when the judge found the officers' testimony in the case to be more credible that witness testimony. The cops claimed they believed Bell had a weapon and said that he ignored ordered to freeze. However, witnesses who were with Bell when he was killed say that the police never gave any orders, they simply opened fire.
Phoenix Police Raid Blogger's Home
Phoenix police raided the home of blogger Jeff Pataky and confiscated all of his computers, hard drives, memory cards and computer networking equipment, along with personal files and documents related to a pending harassment lawsuit against the Phoenix Police Department. At least 10 officers entered Pataky's home while he was away. They handcuffed his female roommate for three hours while they ransacked the home looking for computer equipment and documents. The search warrant, signed by Maricopa County Judge Gary Donahoe, listed "petty theft" and "computer tampering with intent to harass" as probable causes. However, Pataky has not seen an actual affidavit detailing the probable cause because he has been told that all of the records are sealed.
Lawsuit Alleges Cops Planted Gun on Dead Teen
The family of slain teen, Fong Lee, have filed a lawsuit against the Minneapolis police and the officer who killed him. The family has compiled a review of police reports, witness statements and other evidence that support the theory that Fong Lee was unarmed when he was shot by police eight times in 2006 and the gun found near his body was planted there by police. The gun that the officers claim to have found near Fong Lee's body had been recovered by police from a burglary and was kept as evidence. The family also alleges in court documents that Minneapolis police "may have tried to deliberately alter history by writing new reports indicating the gun recovered near Fong Lee's body was not the same gun" that had been recovered after the burglary. The evidence suggests that Minnesota police planted the gun to cover themselves after killing Fong Lee in the street. Police reports indicate that no fingerprints or DNA was found on the weapon.
Michigan Teen Dies After Being Tasered by Police
A 15-year-old boy died in Bay City, Michigan after being Tasered by police. The police were reportedly trying to intervene in an argument between two males and claim that one of them attempted to "fight the officers." After the teen was Tasered, police called for emergency medical help, but it was too late and he was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. One of the officers involved in the incident was placed on administrative leave. The name of the teen has not been released.
YouTube Video Leads to Cop's Indictment and Resignation
A New York City cop who randomly shoved Christopher Long off his bike, then filed a false report and arrested the Critical Mass Bicyclist now faces felony charges. Officer Pogan was placed on administrative leave after a YouTube video of the incident proved his report false and later resigned. Pogan's police report stated that Long ran into him, which is clearly not the case. The charges against Long were dropped.
Shot in the Back by BART Officer
Ex-BART officer Johannes Mehserle was charged with the New Years Day murder of Oscar Grant III after shooting him to death at the Oakland, California, transit station. Mehserle fled from California to Nevada after allegedly receiving death threats and was arrested on a fugitive warrant there. The shooting was captured on cell phone video by several witnesses. The video shows Grant being pinned down by one BART officer, then being shot in the back by Mehserle. The incident and video recordings of it sparked outrage and violence in Oakland. The district attorney has said that the video footage reveals that the shooting was an unlawful killing done as an intentional act.
Cops Raid Wrong House, Assault 12-Year-Old Girl
In Galveston, Texas, a 12-year-old girl stepped outside her home to flip the breaker switch for her mother when a blue van stopped outside the home, three men jumped out, grabbed her and called her a prostitute. When the child screamed for her Dad to help her, the men covered her mouth and beat her in the face and throat. The three men were undercover police officers who happened to be at the wrong house when they grabbed this child. The girl was hospitalized and suffered bruising and ear drum injuries as a result of the incident. Three weeks later, police showed up at the child's school and arrested her for assaulting a public servant for fighting back when they grabbed her. The judge declared a mistrial in the case on the first day of trial and it was rescheduled. The child's mother, Emily Milburn, has filed a lawsuit against the officers.
Woman Dies While Cop Writes Speeding TIcket
A man who was driving his 83-year-old dying mother to the hospital was stopped by a Shelby County, Tennessee deputy less than a mile from the hospital because his truck had expired tags. The officer insisted on writing the ticket instead of letting the man get his mom to the hospital, and as a result, she died. The deputy had been with the sheriff's department less than three years and faced no disciplinary action as a result of the incident. The son of the deceased woman says that the deputy showed no remorse for his mother's death.
Tasered to Death in Louisiana
Baron "Scooter" Pikes was 21 years old when he was handcuffed by police in Winnfield, Louisiana and Tasered nine times. Pikes was dead 39 minutes later. Officer Scott Nugent saw Pikes walking and attempted to arrest him on an outstanding warrant. Pikes ran but was soon cornered by another officer. The officer shocked Pikes with a Taser nine times. The officers say that on the way to the police station, Pikes became ill and they called for an ambulance. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. This incident happened near Jena and sparked more racial tensions as Nugent is white and Pikes was a black man.
Tasered to Death in Maryland
In Frederick County, Maryland, a healthy 20-year-old man died after being shot with a Taser by a sheriff's deputy. Police were called to the scene of a fight and found four people fighting. They tasered one of the men and he fell unconscious. He was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
South Carolina Teen Beaten by Police
In Greenville County, South Carolina, an 18-year-old man was pulled over by an undercover sheriff's deputy. The deputy's dash cam recorded deputy Brian Tollison punching Jeremy Rucker in the face 18 times as he attempts to take him into custody. Soon, a backup deputy appears on the video and holds Rucker while Tollison hits him again. More deputies arrived and the teen was removed from his truck, tasered and kicked in the torso as he is taken into custody. Tollison was fired and faces criminal charges stemming from the beating.
Disabled Woman in Wheelchair Dies After Being Tasered 10 Times
In Clay County, Florida, a 56-year-old mentally ill, wheelchair-bound woman died after police shot her 10 times with Taser guns. Police were called to the home of Emily Delafield because of a disturbance. During a disturbing 911 call before her death, Delafield told the dispatcher she believed she was in danger and that her sister was trying to harm her. Officers say when they arrived, Delafield was in her wheelchair, threatening police and family members with two knives and a hammer. One officer Tasered Delafield nine times for a total of 160 seconds and another officer Tasered the woman once for less than 5 seconds. Delafield's death was ruled a homicide.
Injured Teen Tasered 19 Times
Police were called when motorists saw 16-year-old Mace Hutchinson walking along a busy overpass in Ozark, Missouri. By the time police arrived, Hutchinson had fallen and broken his back and his heel. Police officers say that because the teen did not comply with their orders, they had no choice but to use their Taser weapons on him 19 times. Police say the seriously injured Hutchinson was making incoherent statements and concerned the officers by saying things such as "shoot cops" and "kill cops" so the use of the Taser was warranted.
Police Tase Wrong Man
A 19-year-old man in Clayton, Delaware was mistakenly identified by police as the suspect in an alleged gunpoint rape and was shocked by a police Taser and bitten by a police dog before cops realized their mistake. Police say Derrick Morris was wearing clothing resembling that of the rapist and ignored police commands. Morris was listening to music on his iPod at the time and says he did not hear the police.
Deputies Taser Autistic Child
Deputies in Orange County defend their decision to Taser a 15-year-old autistic child who had run away from his parents and run into traffic. The child's mother says that she had called various police agencies to report her son missing and if he had not felt threatened by police, he would have followed their directions. Doris Karras says that the police use of the Taser on her son was a very aggressive and unnecessary response and that her son was unarmed.
Police Tase Pregnant Woman
The FBI opened an investigation into the conduct of police officers in Trotwood, Ohio after an officer used a Taser weapon on a pregnant woman. The woman showed up at the police department and informed the officer that she wished to give up custody of her 1-year-old son. The officer began questioning the woman and berating her for wanting to give up the child and she attempted to leave with the child. The officer took the child from her, handed him off to another officer and forced the woman to the floor on her stomach. He then deployed the Taser on her neck. The officers say that the woman never disclosed that she was pregnant and they couldn't tell because she was wearing winter clothing.
Officer Breaks Elderly Man's Arm
Phillip Forte, 88, is in a rehab center receiving treatment for a broken arm he sustained during a traffic stop in Oakview, Missouri. Officer Kimberly Whyley pulled Forte over for driving in the dark with no headlights. During the stop, Forte accidentally took his foot off of the brake and the vehicle rolled backwards and struck Whyley while she was writing the ticket. Forte says that Whyley became enraged by the accident and brutally broke his arm while the dash cam recorded. Whyley says that Forte was resisting arrest. She is on leave from the police department and faces misdemeanor assault charges in connection with the incident. Forte is suing the town for $5 million.
Chicago Cop Accused of Brutality for the 7th Time
A Chicago police officer is now accused of police brutality for the seventh time. John Thompson says he was playing pool in a bar during March 2008 when a police officer brutally beat him. The incident was captured on the bar's security camera. To warrant this attack, Thompson says that he accidentally bumped a woman while he was making a shot. Soon, Officer Scott Crawford appeared, grabbed the stick as Thompson was about to make a shot and punched him, knocking him to the floor. Three other officers jumped in and held him to the floor while a fourth pulled out a Taser gun and shocked him multiple times.