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Sepulveda Incident : Man Acquitted of Beating Police Officer

Times Staff Writer

A Sepulveda man was cleared Friday of a charge that he beat a Los Angeles police officer trying to question him outside his apartment.

Sean Walker, 22, argued during a San Fernando Superior Court trial that Officer Thomas McDonald and three other officers from the Police Department’s elite Metro Division were the aggressors in the April 23 incident in the 9000 block of Langdon Street.

McDonald, 31, maintained that after he and his partner, Officer Billy Smalling, 32, stopped Walker on suspicion that he might be driving a stolen car, Walker elbowed him in the chest.

Prosecutors charged that Walker then attempted to choke McDonald with one hand while reaching for the officer’s weapon with the other hand. Prosecutors said that action prompted Smalling to beat Walker with a police baton as two other officers--Raymond Bennette and Dana Hansen--joined in.

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Walker denied choking McDonald or reaching for his gun.

After the jury acquitted Walker, Deputy Dist. Atty. Edwin F. Greene and defense attorney George V. Denny III agreed that conflicting and sometimes contradictory testimony by the police officers caused jurors to doubt the police version of the incident.

For example, Smalling testified that he broadcast Walker’s license-plate number over the radio to check whether it was stolen. But earlier, in his police report and at Walker’s preliminary hearing, Smalling maintained that he and his partner were too far behind the car to check the license number.

Walker, who is black, alleged racial bias on the part of the officers, who are white. At the time of the incident, Walker was with his girlfriend, Julie Hancock, 24, who is white.

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Walker and Hancock have filed claims against the city, the four officers and a fifth officer, Byron Bitting, who was present but not involved in the struggle, Denny said.


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