Los Angeles police officials are investigating a videotape filmed by a Lake View Terrace man that shows a group of police officers brutally clubbing a man about the head and back with nightsticks, then kicking and beating him some more after he appears to be face down on the ground.
The contents of the powerful tape, shot over the weekend by amateur photographer George Holliday, 31, have been referred to the Police Department's Internal Affairs Division for investigation of possible excessive use of force by officers from the Foothill Division, according to Deputy Police Chief William Booth.
Holliday said he was looking out his window in the 11700 block of Foothill Boulevard at 1 a.m. Sunday when he saw about 10 police cars pull over a white sedan across the street after what appeared to be a pursuit.
From their second-floor apartment balcony, Holliday said he and his wife saw the driver get out of the car and lie face-down on the pavement, apparently following the officers' instructions. Two passengers, both men who appeared to be in their mid-30s, remained in the car, he said.
Holliday grabbed his newly purchased video camera, went to the balcony and began taping the scene.
A copy of the tape, which Holliday provided to KTLA Channel 5 news, was viewed by a Times reporter Monday night. It shows what appears at first to be three officers surrounding the man, swinging their nightsticks. The tape slowly comes into focus and the beating accelerates, with one officer swinging his stick wildly back and forth as the man hunches on his knees, attempting to cover his face and head.
The heavy-set black man, dressed in light pants and a dark T-shirt, then rolls to the ground on his stomach. Several officers continue whacking him across the back of the legs, the kidney area, the neck and about the head.
At one point, the man is surrounded by what appears to be as many as 10 officers, most of whom stand and watch their colleagues. At no time does the man appear to offer any resistance.
Mostly, the man rolls about, as though in pain. He appears to be crying out. He is still for several seconds, then one officer stomps his head with a foot and kicks the man. Other officers join in.
At one point, another officer appears to attempt to intervene, but without success.
"The policeman seemed to try to pull another one of them away, sort of gesturing, 'Stop, that's enough,' but the other person kept on hitting him," Holliday recalled.
Another officer could be seen holding a wire that appeared to be attached to the man's neck. Officers then "hog-tied" him, binding his ankles and wrists behind his back, Holliday said, and left him that way on a lawn until an ambulance arrived to take him away.
The two passengers were handcuffed and driven away in police cars, Holliday said.
The incident takes up at least 1 minute, 50 seconds of videotape.
Police on Monday did not identify the man they took into custody nor explain the reason he was stopped. The Foothill Division watch commander would not comment on the matter.
Booth, too, said he knew none of the particulars about the man. He said a copy of the tape has been turned over to internal affairs investigators. Officials of the department could not be reached Monday night.
Police spokesman Lt. Fred Nixon told KTLA that the police report "indicates the arrestee, not like the men in his car, did not go along willingly. It is impossible to look at a video and see what the situation was." That, he said, would be the subject of the investigation.
"Before they started hitting him he was pretty much cooperative," Holliday said. "It was a weird feeling. I was trying to think what could he have done to deserve that? I was thinking, it's terrible that that's happening, I was feeling for the guy. . . . But I didn't know what the guy did."