King Target of Taunts, Nurse Says


As Rodney G. King lay on an emergency room bed after a police beating, one officer taunted him, saying: "We had a pretty good hardball game tonight," a nurse testified Friday.

Lawrence Davis, who attended to King at Pacifica Hospital told jurors in the assault trial of four officers that one of them, Laurence M. Powell, made that remark and others along the same lines.

Davis testified that Powell also said: "We hit quite a few home runs," after King had said he worked as an usher at Dodger Stadium.

Powell and the three other white officers are accused of beating King, who is black, after a March 3, 1991, traffic stop. The incident, videotaped by a resident, provoked national outrage when it was broadcast widely on television.

The prosecution maintains that Powell clubbed King in the head repeatedly, wielding his baton with a baseball player's swing.

Davis testified that another of the defendants, Officer Timothy C. Wind, was present when Powell spoke to King at the hospital. Although Wind did not speak, Superior Court Judge Stanley Weisberg said his silence could be interpreted as agreement with Powell.

Wind's lawyer, Paul DePasquale, called the comments "banter" and "gallows humor."

Powell, 29, Wind, 31, Officer Theodore J. Briseno, 39, and Sgt. Stacey C. Koon, 41, are charged with assault. They face four to eight years in prison if convicted.

Upon hearing of King's job as an usher, Davis testified that Powell said he hoped King would never have to usher him at a game.

"Later on, Officer Powell made a statement. He asked Rodney King if he remembered the game they played that night," Davis said. "Mr. Powell said: 'We had a pretty good hardball game tonight."'

Deputy Dist. Atty. Terry White then showed Davis his grand jury testimony to refresh his memory, and Davis recalled another statement.

"Mr. Powell said: 'And you lost the ballgame, didn't you?"' he testified.

"And what did Mr. King say?" asked White.

"Yeah, you played a pretty good game tonight," Davis said.

On cross-examination, Powell's lawyer, Michael Stone, pointed to Davis' notation on a chart that King was "combative" when he was brought to the hospital. Davis said the patient was struggling with his handcuffs and restraints that tied him to the gurney.

The judge also ruled that a computer transmission between Koon and the Police Department's Foothill Station minutes after the beating was admissible.

Koon's message read: "U (his patrol unit) just had a big time use of force. Tased and beat the suspect of a CHP pursuit. Big time." Tase refers to use of an electric stun gun called a Taser.

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