Lawyers representing 29 people filed a civil rights suit in Los Angeles federal court Thursday alleging that police beat the plaintiffs and destroyed four apartments with sledgehammers while searching for drugs.
The suit, which contends that the Police Department’s behavior was motivated by “anti-black animus,” stems from an Aug. 1 incident in which 60 officers raided two neighboring apartment buildings in South Los Angeles, the group of 10 lawyers said at a news conference at the site.
“We allege in our lawsuit that this activity, which is blatantly unconstitutional, was the result of the policy of gang sweeps, which has been implemented by the city of Los Angeles, by Mayor (Tom) Bradley, by Chief of Police Daryl Gates,” said lawyer John Burton.
The lawyers alleged the officers ripped plaster from the walls, slashed furniture with knives, hammered toilets and sinks into pieces, hacked apart stereos and videocassette recorders and even poured bleach over clothes.
Don Jackson, a Hawthorne police sergeant and chairman of the Police Practices Committee of the local NAACP, said police found one-quarter gram of rock cocaine during the search.
Thirty-three people were taken into custody and held for up to six hours before all but eight were released, Jackson said. One was arrested for possession of cocaine and seven for conspiracy to sell cocaine, he said.
More than 40 people signed complaints against the police over the 9:30 p.m. incident at two houses converted into apartments at 3903 and 3907 Dalton Ave., the lawyers said.
Los Angeles police spokesman Cmdr. William Booth said he had no comment on the U.S. District Court suit, which seeks unspecified general, special and exemplary damages.
Burton charged the police crackdown has “resulted in a wholesale suspension of the Bill of Rights” in South Los Angeles, depriving thousands of people of their civil rights.
“This incident is simply the most grotesque example of a police department and city government that has completely gone amok and has declared war on its own people,” Burton said.
Onie Palmer, 45, one of the plaintiffs whose home was destroyed, charged that the police raid would not have occurred “if it had been a white person’s neighborhood.”
Taking a Bath
Gloria Flowers, 21, said she was taking a bath when police burst into her apartment and forced her to lie naked on the floor for 10 minutes until one officer got a blanket and covered her with it.
Munique Williams, a teen-ager who was forced to lie handcuffed on the ground, said she witnessed police beating the others.
“The officers beat one guy in the head with a bat to the point that he passed out twice,” Williams is quoted as saying in a statement by the lawyers. “Another man was kicked in the testicles, causing him to vomit. Then, an officer wiped the victim’s face in the vomit and forced his jaw open to the point where he needed medical attention.”
The lawyers said the Red Cross was called to provide emergency shelter for residents of the apartments that were destroyed.
Burton said he will file an amendment to the lawsuit adding several of the 10 children, some as young as 2, who were present during the search.