King Kept Trying to Get Up, Officers Say : Trial: Two testify that the motorist was struck only after repeatedly refusing to submit. But prosecutors maintain he was no threat.


Two Los Angeles police officers testified Monday in the trial of four fellow officers that Rodney G. King was beaten and kicked only after he repeatedly tried to get up off the ground.

The two Los Angeles Police Department witnesses, Officers Robert J. Simpach and Christopher J. Hajduk, were working as partners the morning of March 3, 1991, when they arrived at the scene of King's arrest in Lake View Terrace.

Each recalled seeing a series of blows to King, including three or four from Officer Laurence M. Powell's baton and four or five kicks by Officer Timothy E. Wind.

Simpach and Hajduk were called to the witness stand by Michael Stone, who as Powell's defense attorney is attempting to show that King repeatedly resisted arrest.

But prosecutors, in cross-examining the witnesses, maintained that King never posed a threat to the officers at the scene. They elicited concessions from the two witnesses that King never struck or kicked back at the officers, and that he never made it to his feet.

Simpach testified that he "noticed two officers on either side" of King. "I noticed Sgt. (Stacey C.) Koon, and I noticed the Taser (electric stun gun) wires, which appeared to be attached to Mr. King.

"I saw Mr. King on his hands and knees, and I observed Officer Powell take approximately three swings with his baton. . . . Each blow I observed hit Mr. King on his left thigh."

Several officers ordered King to "get down," but he refused, Simpach said. "He would go almost all the way down, and then he would get back up again," said Simpach, a 17-year LAPD veteran.

"And each time Officer Powell hit Mr. King in the leg, that was followed by a kicking motion by Officer Wind to his right shoulder area, which seemed to have the effect of knocking Mr. King to the ground.

Hajduk, who joined the LAPD less than a year before the incident, said he was shocked that King "was getting struck in the legs, and it was having no effect on him.

"His hands were in a push-up type position," Hajduk testified, "and he started to push his upper body up off the ground. His left leg started to come up in a kneeling position, and his right leg was lifting up off the ground."

Prosecutors played a videotape of the incident to illustrate their point that King, after first moving toward Powell at the start of the tape, never again stood up.

Also under cross-examination, Simpach said the blows and kicks ceased when King finally placed his hands behind his head and submitted to being arrested.

Earlier in the day, another bystander officer, Rolando Solano, was permitted to retestify--this time before the jury--about comments Officer Theodore J. Briseno made to him after the beating.

Sitting in their patrol car, Solano said Briseno became "very upset and very angry" and said that Koon, the supervisor at the arrest, "should have handled (the arrest) better." Solano also said that Briseno feared the officers might have had to shoot King.

On the videotape, Briseno can be seen kicking King once. He also can be seen pushing Powell's baton away.

Briseno's defense strategy is that he was repulsed by the violence and tried to stop the beating.

All four defendants have pleaded not guilty. The trial resumes this morning when Powell is scheduled to become the second of the four officers to testify in his own defense.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World