INGLEWOOD, CALIF. — The mayor, police department, and the district attorney of this city near Los Angeles have pledged to investigate the arrest of a teenager who was videotaped being slammed onto a police car and punched in the face while he was handcuffed.
Police Officer Jeremy Morse, a three-year police veteran, was relieved of duty and placed on administrative leave following the arrest of 16-year-old Donovan Jackson an incident that some are comparing to the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers in 1991.
The police and sheriff's departments began separate internal investigations. The district attorney's office, too, is investigating. "What occurred within the video is extremely disturbing to the Inglewood Police Department and to the administrators of the city," says district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons.
Roosevelt F. Dorn, mayor of the city of 115,000 in southwestern Los Angeles County, called the tape disturbing and pledged a thorough investigation.
"I also want the public to know that the conduct of this one officer does not reflect the attitude and conduct of the Inglewood Police Department," Dorn says.
The videotape was taken by a tourist Saturday at a motel across the street from the gas station where the arrest took place. It shows the teen hoisted to his feet by Morse and slammed onto the trunk of a police car. The officer put a hand on the back of the teenager's neck, slugged him with his other hand and then appeared to choke him. Two officers appeared to intervene, with at least one trying to pull away the first officer's arm.
Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Richard Myers says the teen-age passenger became "combative" and was subdued with force and taken into custody. Jackson was booked for assault on a police officer.
What happened before the camera began taping was unclear. The Inglewood officers were assisting two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies who were investigating a car driven by Jackson's father that had an expired registration. Police Lt. Eve R. Irvine said Monday that Jackson lunged at a sheriff's deputy, provoking the altercation.
The family's lawyer, Joe Hopkins, says the teen is developmentally disabled and a special-education student with no arrest record. "I doubt he is emotionally capable of doing what they say he did," Mr. Hopkins says. The father and son pulled into the station to get gas, says Hopkins. The deputies passed by and came back, then ordered him against the car, he says. "From there it went crazy."
Lieutenant. Irvine says sheriff's investigators have collected images from gas station surveillance cameras but she does not know what they showed.
The three other officers at the gas station were not relieved of duty.