With the Los Angeles County grand jury moving quickly to look into the videotaped beating of a teen-ager by a Compton police officer, community activists Thursday called for charges to be filed against the officer and demanded that the city's police chief resign.
Humberto Guizar, who represents 17-year-old Felipe Soltero, was subpoenaed by the grand jury and ordered to turn over the crucial videotape that shows Officer Michael Jackson lunging at the youth and then striking him at least six times with his baton.
The district attorney's Special Investigations Division is looking into the beating, but because no charges have been filed, it cannot subpoena witnesses or evidence. The grand jury, however, can order evidence produced.
Jackson was called last Friday by a county children's social worker to the mobile home where Soltero lives with his mother, his mother's companion, Manuel Shigala, and five other children. The social worker had gone to the residence to investigate an allegation of child abuse involving Shigala, 41, and she alleged that Soltero had interfered with her and threatened her life.
Jackson's report on the incident said he had to subdue Soltero with his baton after the 130-pound youth hit him with his fist while being arrested. Jackson's attorney said Thursday that the police officer, who is short of stature but weighs more than 180 pounds, wrestled with Soltero before the confrontation seen on the tape.
With the tape's images shown repeatedly on local and national television for a third day, angry anti-police rhetoric was accompanied by church-sponsored peace rallies and calls for calm.
"They treat us like animals, and it's time for it to stop," said Theresa Allison, founder of the Mothers Reclaiming Our Children organization in Los Angeles, one of the groups that was scheduled to participate in a protest march Thursday night outside Compton police headquarters.
She said that although Jackson is African American and Soltero is Latino, the issue is police abuse, not racism.
"Let's not make it like a black and Latino thing," she said. "It's human beings being beat up, human beings being discriminated against."
About 40 whites, Latinos and African Americans demonstrated in front of the Compton police station for about 30 minutes Thursday evening, chanting "No justice! No peace!" The group demanded that a civilian review board investigate charges of police misconduct and that charges be filed against Jackson.
"It's not about color," said Antoine Brown, one of the demonstrators. "It's about the badge."
But Pedro Pallan, a Compton baker and past president of the city's Latino Chamber of Commerce, said the video "proves what we've been saying all along--the Compton police have a hostile attitude toward Latinos."
Pallan and other Latino leaders in Compton said Compton Police Chief Hourie Taylor should be forced to resign.
The videotape comes at a time when racial animosity and competition for jobs and services in Compton is growing, said Robert Almanzan, a spokesman for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In fact, MALDEF and the Compton chapter of the NAACP organized a summit meeting of 300 African American and Latino community leaders in April to come up with ways to reduce those tensions.
But, he said: "We really need to see this incident for what it's worth and . . . get more information before things get heated up more than they are."
Attorney Michael Hannon, who represents Jackson, called attempts to paint his client as a racist "a complete fabrication," and said that the videotape shows only a fraction of what went on between Soltero and his client.
Hannon and witnesses at the Westland trailer park said that the two wrestled briefly until Soltero's 14-year-old sister tried to stop them. Distracted by the girl, Jackson let Soltero up and the youth put up his fists. That is when Jackson used his baton to knock Soltero down, Hannon said.
Jackson is "feeling pretty abused, generally, because the news is pillorying him based on about 25% of the story," Hannon said. He refused a request for an interview with Jackson, who has been placed on paid administrative leave by the Compton Police Department after the videotape was broadcast on KNBC-TV Channel 4.
Guizar rejected Hannon's version of events. During a brief interview with reporters at his attorney's office, Soltero said in Spanish that he did not wrestle with Jackson but that the officer knocked him to the ground as he was being arrested. When he stood up, the officer hit him in the face with the back end of the baton, Soltero said.
According to Guizar, his client later asked Jackson why he had not handcuffed Soltero when Soltero was down the first time. Jackson's answer, Guizar said, was that he "wanted to have some fun that day."