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Muslim Killed by Deputies Shot in Head, Autopsy Finds

January 27, 1990|LOUIS SAHAGUN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An autopsy conducted Friday confirmed that a man shot by sheriff's deputies in a confrontation with Nation of Islam members died of a gunshot wound to the head, and also sustained a "graze wound to the right hip," authorities said.

The Sheriff's Department has previously said that Oliver Beasley, 27, was hit by a single round in the head during the confrontation in the Athens District south of Los Angeles .

Sheriff's Lt. Frank Merriman, who is heading up an internal investigation into Tuesday's fatal shooting, said his initial statements about the nature of Beasley's wounds were based on "a preliminary visual examination" at the scene "pending a coroner's autopsy."

David Campbell, senior investigator for the county coroner's office, declined to elaborate on Beasley's autopsy.

The confrontation that led to Beasley's death erupted shortly after two deputies--a trainee and a training officer--stopped a vehicle on a minor traffic violation early Tuesday morning near an apartment building managed by Nation of Islam members.

The deputies say they were attacked by several men from the apartment building who grabbed them from behind and placed them in chokeholds. When a handgun was allegedly taken from the trainee, he drew a backup weapon and fired five shots. David Hartley, 18, a Nation member and the driver of the vehicle that was stopped, was wounded in the shoulder and Beasley was shot in the head.

Moments earlier, the training officer's weapon discharged once, during a separate struggle for control of that weapon, sheriff's officials have said. Until the autopsy was conducted Friday, sheriff's investigators believed that the round had not hit anyone.

Now, Merriman said, "We believe . . . the graze wound was caused by the training officer's weapon."

Earlier this week, a man who said he interviewed witnesses told a group of community activists that the trainee shot Beasley in the head, then fired another round into the already wounded man. The man also said that Beasley's body, held by the heels, was then dragged "up and down the street."

Sheriff's officials have described that account as "preposterous."

Coroner's officials would not release information that would show whether Beasley had been dragged. However, Merriman said, "I don't have the complete results of the autopsy, but there was absolutely no evidence that he was dragged up and down the street--on his clothes or on his person."

County prosecutors on Thursday filed felony charges against Hartley, but declined to charge five other males arrested in the incident because of insufficient evidence.

Hartley was charged with one count of removing a firearm from a police officer, one count of battery against an officer and one count of resisting an officer with threats of violence.

A funeral service for Beasley is scheduled for 10 a.m. today at First AME Church, 2270 S. Harvard Blvd., Los Angeles.

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