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2002-07-12

Police Brutality On Videotape Across the Country: The Videographer Who Captured Footage of Police Beating An Unarmed Teenager in Inglewood Is Arrested; Police Investigate An Oklahoma City Police Beati

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Police Thursday arrested Mitch Crooks, the man who videotaped the scene of a white officer smashing the head of a handcuffed black teenager into the trunk of a car. The arrest came on the same day Crooks was supposed to appear before a grand jury. He was approaching CNN for a television interview, when plain-clothed officers drove up to the building and hustled him into a van with tinted windows. A CNN surveillance camera caught the scene on video. It shows Crooks struggling against the officers, screaming for help as the van drove away.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office says Crooks was arrested on warrants for petty theft and driving under the influence with a hit and run. The DA also served him with a subpoena to testify before the Los Angeles County grand jury. Crooks had been expected to appear before the grand jury Thursday morning but failed to show up.

Crooks had repeatedly told reporters he was afraid officers would be "coming after" him for videotaping the beating of 16-year-old Donovan Jackson Chavis from a nearby motel room. Speaking on a radio program Wednesday Crooks said: "I fear for my life. They’re going to kick my ass in a cell and take turns on me, probably." Crooks also told reporters the four officers involved in the beating approached his motel room moments after he shot the video, demanding the tape.

Jeremy Morse, the officer seen beating Donovan Jackson Chavis, has yet to be charged with a crime. He was suspended on Monday with pay. On Thursday, his attorney said the 16-year-old developmentally disabled Jackson took action that "required that he be punched." Morse has been the subject of repeated complaints to the Inglewood Police Department.

Meanwhile, authorities in Oklahoma City asked the FBI to look into the actions of two officers who were videotaped striking an unarmed African American man 27 times with batons. The police also sprayed him with pepper spray. They said they were trying to arrest the man, Donald Pete, for trying to conceal marijuana by swallowing it.

Oklahoma City Police Chief M.T. Berry said the Inglewood incident prompted him to contact the FBI. But he said he does not believe the Oklahoma case rises to the same level of seriousness as the California case.

The Police Chief initially defended the officers, saying they acted correctly while handling the arrest on Monday.

Guests:

  • Michael ZinZun, Chairperson of the Coalition Against Police Abuse in Los Angeles. He is a former member of the Black Panthers and has brought two successful suits against the LA police department and a third against the Pasadena Police Department.
  • Roland V. Combs, lawyer for Donald Reed Pete, the unarmed man who was beaten by police in Oklahoma City.

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