A bystander's videotape that captures Los Angeles police officers repeatedly striking a prone, apparently defenseless man, stirred a public furor Tuesday, with Mayor Tom Bradley declaring himself "shocked and outraged" by the incident, widely broadcast on national television.
The FBI and Los Angeles County district attorney's office announced that they had opened investigations into the officers' actions, which followed a high-speed car chase in the northeast San Fernando Valley. The Los Angeles Police Department's Internal Affairs Division also is investigating.
The homemade video, shot early Sunday morning in Lake View Terrace, depicts at least a dozen officers surrounding the man after he left his car, kicking him and inflicting more than 40 blows with nightsticks as he lay on the pavement. The tape, shot from a nearby apartment balcony, recorded no sound.
It was first broadcast Monday night by a Los Angeles television station and was shown nationwide Tuesday by Cable News Network.
The violent images produced an immediate public outcry and brought the Police Department under intense criticism.
At a Los Angeles Police Commission meeting Tuesday afternoon, Police Chief Daryl F. Gates called the tape "shocking," but said he would withhold judgment until the incident had been investigated.
Gates added: "One incident doesn't indict an entire department. I would hope the public on this one case not make a judgement on the Los Angeles Police Department."
Civil rights and police watchdog groups said the incident was only one in a string of unprovoked beatings by officers.
Bradley, along with other public officials, was unequivocal in his response.
"This is something we cannot, and will not, tolerate," the mayor said. "It's now a matter of our identifying and finding witnesses. . . . I assure you that once that's done, appropriate action will be taken by the department and the Police Commission."
FBI spokesman Jim Neilson said the bureau had decided to investigate the incident as a possible civil rights violation.
The man shown being beaten on the tape is black. He was identified as Rodney Glen King, 25, of Altadena, who was released from prison in December after serving time for a second-degree robbery conviction. Members of his family said King, unemployed since leaving prison, had been scheduled to begin a construction job Monday, the day after the beating.
Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner, said the prosecutor's Special Investigations Division is investigating the case.
"We want to determine if there is a criminal case (against the officers)," she said. "We're going to proceed on this very quickly."
New details of the incident emerged Tuesday, as police and witnesses offered conflicting versions.
At about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, King's 1988 Hyundai was clocked by California Highway Patrol officers at speeds of up to 115 m.p.h., west on the Foothill Freeway. Los Angeles officers joined the pursuit when King left the freeway and entered surface streets, running several red lights, said CHP spokesman Sgt. Mike Brey.
Richard Talkington, Police Department traffic detective, told The Times that reports written by the officers involved said that King ignored several requests to leave his car after it was pulled over in the 11700 block of Foothill Boulevard.
Talkington, assigned to investigate the initial traffic violation, said the officers' reports indicate that King placed his left hand in his pants pocket when he stepped out of the car--a movement that Talkington surmised heightened the officers' concern that he had a weapon.
King finally lay down on the ground at the officers' orders, Talkington said, but resisted being handcuffed, causing Officer Laurence Powell to lose his balance and fall.
"That's when the fight started," Talkington said.
King charged toward Powell, and Sgt. Stacey Koon fired a stun gun dart at King, hitting him in the back, Talkington said. Although momentarily incapacitated, King recovered and charged toward the officers again, the detective said. Powell and Officer Timothy Wind then drew their batons and struck King on the arms, legs and torso.
Talkington said King continued to kick and swing but was subdued by several officers, using a method Talkington called "the swarm technique."
The video--shot by amateur photographer George Holliday--shows no indication that King attempted to hit or charge the officers.
Three witnesses who live in the same building as Holliday--directly across the street from where King's car was stopped--said Tuesday that they did not see King fight the officers.
"I never saw him offer any resistance," said Eloise Camp, 65, a retired school teacher.
Dorothy Gibson, 52, a nurse, said she saw one officer walk up behind King with two hands on his baton and swinging it like a baseball bat onto the man's back. The witness said she could hear King pleading, " 'Please stop, please stop.' "