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LAPD chief faults second officer in ‘horrific’ arrest caught on tape

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Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

In October, a Los Angeles police officer was caught on video kicking and hitting a man as he lay face-down on a South L.A. sidewalk.

Officer Richard Garcia’s actions immediately drew concerns from police officials — one called the footage “horrific” — and prompted prosecutors to take the rare step of charging the officer with assault.

But a report made public Tuesday shows LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has also faulted the actions of other officers involved in Clinton Alford’s arrest, including a second officer who the chief said used unreasonable force when he kicked Alford and stood on his feet.

The civilian commission that oversees the LAPD sided with Beck on Tuesday and found that Garcia and the second officer violated the department’s force policies during the Oct. 16 arrest. Beck said he had viewed the video of the incident and concluded “that the force used was not reasonable, given Alford’s limited and unapparent resistance,” according to the report.

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The names of the four officers who arrested Alford were redacted from the document, which was made public as a result of a request by The Times. Garcia, 35, was publicly identified in April when the district attorney’s office charged him with assault under the color of authority. He has pleaded not guilty.

An LAPD spokesman declined to comment on the Police Commission’s decision, saying it may trigger disciplinary proceedings that are kept private under state law.

Caree Harper, Alford’s attorney, said actions should have been taken against the officers sooner, given what was seen on the video. She said her client wants the officers fired.

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“What takes the chief almost a year to come up with a conclusion that could have been made instantaneously is beyond me,” she said.

Robert Rico, who is representing Garcia in his criminal case, said he wasn’t surprised by the Police Commission’s ruling. He said he believed the board lost its credibility this year after its controversial decision to fault a police officer who fatally shot Ezell Ford, a mentally ill black man, during a struggle over the officer’s gun.

“I do not give that Police Commission any credence,” Rico said. “In order for them to have come to that decision, they had to have ignored all the facts and all the other officer statements that said Mr. Alford was continuing to resist.”

Beck’s report outlines a narrative from the officers, who said Alford resisted their efforts to detain him and struggled even after he was handcuffed. Sources who saw the video have told The Times that Alford was not resisting the officers.

One source said Tuesday that the officers’ comments were being further investigated as a result of the discrepancy. The recording, which was captured by a security camera on a nearby building, has not been made public.

It is now up to Beck to decide whether to discipline the officers, who could receive more training, face suspensions or lose their jobs. None have returned to work since the arrest, an LAPD spokesman said Tuesday.

Alford, now 23, previously told The Times that he was riding his bicycle along Avalon Boulevard near 55th Street when a car pulled up and a man yelled at him to stop — but did not identify himself as a police officer. Someone grabbed the back of the bike, Alford said, so he jumped off and ran.

Beck said in his report that the officers approached Alford at the request of a detective who was looking for potential robbery suspects in the neighborhoods covered by LAPD’s Newton Division. The report said Alford matched the description of the suspect but did not include that description.

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After a short chase, two police officers caught up to Alford. One swung a baton and missed, the report said, and Alford went to the ground.

Two of the officers grabbed Alford and pressed against him to help handcuff him, according to Beck’s report, but those officers later got up and walked away. A third officer kicked Alford’s legs, then stood on his feet to “prevent the suspect’s escape,” the report said.

The fourth officer, Garcia, kicked Alford in the shoulder, then punched him in the head “in an effort to cause Alford discomfort,” according to the report. He then elbowed Alford in the head and later slapped his forehead “to get his attention.”

Garcia told investigators he thought Alford — who was by then handcuffed — was trying to reach into his shorts, possibly for a weapon. The officer kneed him in the side and back, the report said.

Later, Alford was carried to the patrol car. Beck raised concerns with how the officers moved him, writing in the report that police “must always remain cognizant of the potential for injury to the suspect and the perception of the public.”

There was also an allegation that one of the officers spat on or toward Alford while he was on the ground, the report said. Beck said that allegation, “as well as the actions of any of the other officers” would be addressed in one of at least two personnel complaints initiated in response to the incident.

The second personnel complaint involves a sergeant who responded to the scene and let two of the officers watch the security camera footage of the incident. One of them recorded the video on his cellphone.

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kate.mather@latimes.com

Twitter: @katemather

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