Wind Says Koon Gave an Order to Strike King

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The second phase of the trial of Rodney G. King's lawsuit began Thursday with one of the former officers acquitted of criminal charges in King's beating testifying that he struck and kicked King on the orders of his superior.

Timothy E. Wind, who was a rookie on the night of the March 3, 1991, beating in Lake View Terrace, said he struck King nine or 10 times with his baton and kicked him six times after hearing Sgt. Stacey C. Koon say, "Hit him! Hit him!"

Wind said he hit King, who was attempting to push up from the ground, to keep him down.

Wind, who was acquitted of criminal charges in two previous trials, spoke confidently to the jurors, at one point leaving the stand to demonstrate kicks used by officers to subdue King.

It was the first time he had testified in court about his participation in the beating.

On Tuesday, the jury concluded the first phase of the trial, determining that the city owed King $3.8 million for his injuries.

Wind's testimony followed opening statements by both sides in the second phase of the lawsuit--being heard by the same seven-woman, three-man jury that heard the first phase.

The panel is to determine whether punitive damages will be assessed against 15 present and former officers, including former Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, and former officers Wind, Koon, Theodore J. Briseno and Laurence M. Powell.

Under questioning from King's attorney, Wind said he had seen Powell strike King in the face. It was Powell who administered the most blows to King.

"I saw the end of (Powell's) baton hit Mr. King in the right cheek," said Wind, adding that King was in a "push-up position."

As officers swarmed around, Wind testified, he could hear Koon yell out the order to hit King. Wind's testimony was the first attributing such an order to Koon, who was not in court during the testimony.

In elaborating on his interaction with King, Wind said: "I was using my foot to try to push him back on the ground."

Before the jury was called in to start the second phase, Powell's attorneys told U.S. District Judge John G. Davies that their client would invoke his 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination in the trial. Koon's lawyers are concerned that his comments might be used against him in the pending appeal of his federal conviction for violating King's civil rights.

Powell and Koon, who was also convicted last year of violating King's civil rights, are serving 30-month prison sentences. Powell's lawyers argued that he cannot be compelled to testify until all appeals of his civil rights conviction are resolved.

But Davies said he would allow Powell to take the stand. The judge said he will decide what questions Powell can answer on an individual basis.

Opening statements began with an attorney for King promising to call expert witnesses to testify about the Christopher Commission's findings that the Police Department has a history of committing abuses, particularly against minorities.

Lawyers for the defense praised the officers' actions during King's arrest, saying he was a fleeing felony suspect considered to be under the influence of drugs. They blamed his injuries, in part, on the Police Department's decision to ban the controversial chokehold that would have helped to subdue him.

Briseno has filed a countersuit against King, contending that he was knocked on the ground and injured by King while trying to handcuff him. The jury also will settle that claim.

In addition to Koon, Gates and one of the 10 bystander officers at the scene of the beating were not in court Thursday. The bystander officers are accused in King's suit of failing to stop the beating.

The punitive damage phase began with no new efforts to settle the case out of court. A lawyer for Powell said his client and the other officers accused in the case are broke and cannot pay King any money.

But King's lawyer, Milton Grimes, disagreed: "I believe their net worth is going to be over $1 million," he said.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
58°