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Man Who Taped Police Beating Arrested in L.A.

by Ig Saturday, Jul. 13, 2002 at 5:06 PM

Mitchell Crooks arrested before he could testify to Grand Jury! Crooks' arrest was videotaped and broadcast on local KCAL-TV, showing undercover officers hustling him into a sports utility vehicle with tinted windows outside the studios of CNN as the 27-year-old man repeatedly screamed for help.

Man Who Taped Police Beating Arrested in L.A.

By Reuters | New York Times

Friday, 12 July, 2002

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The man who videotaped a police beating near Los Angeles that enraged black leaders and then dodged a grand jury inquiry into the matter was arrested on Thursday as he prepared to grant a television interview.

Mitchell Crooks was taken into custody on warrants issued in northern California for petty theft and drunken driving. Authorities also served him with a subpoena to testify before the Los Angeles County grand jury.

Crooks' arrest was videotaped and broadcast on local KCAL-TV, showing undercover officers hustling him into a sports utility vehicle with tinted windows outside the studios of CNN as the 27-year-old man repeatedly screamed for help.

Crooks had failed to appear on Thursday morning at Los Angeles Superior Court, where the grand jury was meeting, after telling a local radio program that he feared for his life.

``All we're doing is arresting him on the basis of a warrant,'' Los Angeles County District Attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said. ``If there had not been a warrant, we would have escorted him to the grand jury.''

``He is a witness and we need him to authenticate the tape recording, otherwise its value in court would be greatly diminished,'' Gibbons said. Crooks shot his videotape from a motel room across the street from the scene of the incident in Inglewood, which abuts south-central Los Angeles.

Crooks called a KFI-AM talk radio show hosted by John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou on Wednesday to discuss the case and said he was afraid that officers would be ``coming after'' him for videotaping the beating of 16-year-old Donovan Jackson.

'I FEAR FOR MY LIFE'

``I fear for my life,'' Crooks said. ``They're going to kick my ass in a cell and take turns on me, probably.''

Deputy District Attorney Kurt Livesay, who was also a guest on the show, then told Crooks over the air that authorities did not want to hurt him, and asked that he give his address to investigators. Instead, Crooks hung up the phone.

The videotape, first broadcast on Sunday, shows Inglewood Police Officer Jeremy Morse picking up Jackson and slamming him face-first onto a patrol car. Several seconds later, Morse is seen slugging Jackson in the face with a closed fist.

The tape sparked cries of racism and comparisons to the incendiary 1991 beating of Rodney King, which was also videotaped. The acquittal of four Los Angeles officers in that case led to the worst urban riots in modern U.S. history.

Several local law enforcement agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were investigating the altercation between Jackson and Morse, a three-year veteran of the Inglewood Police Department. U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft sent his top civil rights deputy to Los Angeles on the case.

Jackson and his 41-year-old father, Coby Chavis, who was present during the incident, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Wednesday against the officers involved in their arrest, the city of Inglewood and the County of Los Angeles.

Black leaders, including congresswoman Maxine Waters, a Democrat who represents the area, and Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn have called for Morse to be immediately fired and broughtup on state or federal charges.

ATTORNEY: OFFICER DESERVES DUE PROCESS

But Morse's lawyer told Reuters in an interview that the 24-year-old officer had been condemned by public officials before all of the facts were known or the probes even begun.

``I think it's quite unfortunate that people who have sworn to defend and uphold the Constitution would ignore the presumption of innocence and find individuals guilty before there's even been a trial,'' attorney John Barnett said. ``I thought we stopped doing that a couple hundred years ago.''

Barnett, who also represented one of the officers acquitted in King's beating, said public officials were offering inappropriate assurances that his client was guilty.

``This very same thing happened (in the King case),'' he said. ``That's why it was such a big surprise when they were acquitted with tragic, tragic consequences.''

Barnett said that Morse lifted Jackson from the ground and heaved him onto the car because the teen had let his legs go limp in an effort to resist.

``After his hands were cuffed, Jackson was able to reach out and grab my client's testicles,'' he said. ``And on that occasion the punch was seen in order to make that activity cease.''

In Oklahoma, meanwhile, civil rights activists called for immediate disciplinary action against two white police officers who were videotaped beating a prone black suspect with batons.

The officers, Greg Driskill and E.J. Dyer, were to remain on regular duty pending the results of a probe. Oklahoma City police have asked the FBI to investigate.

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