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On Tape, Fuhrman Describes Incident Similar to '78 Event : Simpson trial: Sources say LAPD has records of a Boyle Heights confrontation that led to a brutality suit, which matches many details given by the detective.

August 18, 1995|JIM NEWTON and HENRY WEINSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

In graphic passages from the tapes that have come to dominate O.J. Simpson's murder trial, former LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman said he and other officers went on a bloody beating spree and "basically tortured" suspects after two policemen were shot in 1978, then lied to Internal Affairs investigators about the incident, according to a portion of the transcript made available to The Times on Thursday.

Sources say the Los Angeles Police Department has now uncovered records of a Nov. 18, 1978, incident in Boyle Heights that matches many details described by Fuhrman in that audiotape, which along with tape transcripts has been provided to the prosecution and defense in Simpson's trial.

Official departmental corroboration of even some significant details could lend credibility to the grisly account that Fuhrman gives in the 1985 interview, and might bolster the contention of Simpson's lawyers that the recently retired detective was telling the truth in the interviews, not making up details to impress a would-be screenwriter.

Beyond the Simpson trial, the tapes may hold profound implications for the LAPD, of which Fuhrman was a member until earlier this month. If the department's re-examination of the 17-year-old incident determines that Fuhrman's account was factual, there could be profound political and social fallout from a case that the LAPD acknowledges has become a public relations nightmare.

In the transcript shared with The Times, Fuhrman said he was the primary suspect in an 18-month Internal Affairs Division investigation that resulted from the 1978 incident, but that he escaped any punishment.

"They knew damn well I did it," he said, according to the transcript. "But there was nothing they could do about it. Most of the guys worked 77th [Street Division] together. We were tight. I mean, we could have murdered people. We all knew what to say."

Fuhrman was briefly assigned to the Simpson murder case and reported finding a bloody glove on the grounds of the former football great's estate, but prosecutors have forcefully argued that the defense's attack on Fuhrman's character and credibility does not prove that he planted evidence and is intended to distract the jury from the question of Simpson's guilt or innocence.

Simpson has pleaded not guilty to the June 12, 1994, murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman.

"Whatever [Fuhrman's] personal beliefs may be," Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcia Clark said Wednesday, "the truth of the matter is that he could not have done what they're trying to prove he did."

In the transcript, Fuhrman tells screenwriter and professor Laura Hart McKinny about the investigation of a shooting at a housing project in the Hollenbeck Division, which includes Boyle Heights.

"Two of my buddies were shot and ambushed, policemen," Fuhrman said, according to the transcript. "Both down when I arrived. I was first unit at the scene. Four suspects ran into a second-story apartment, and we kicked the door down, grabbed the girl, one of their girlfriends, by the hair, stuck a gun to her head, and used her as a barricade."

McKinny interrupted Fuhrman at one point during the interview and asked whether she could include those details in her work. Fuhrman objected, saying it had not been a full seven years since the incident and therefore the statute of limitations would not protect him.

Fuhrman's attorney, Robert H. Tourtelot, has said his client was not speaking as himself on the tapes but rather as a character in a fictional work. Fuhrman's attention to the statute of limitations could undermine that argument.

Nevertheless, Tourtelot said Thursday that he had no knowledge of the events reportedly described on the tapes and he believed that his client was "inflating, exaggerating an incident that may have had some relationship to reality for the purpose of impressing a screenwriter."

According to the transcript, Fuhrman said the beating continued until "we had them begging that they would never be gang members again" and included throwing some of them down two flights of stairs.

"We basically tortured them," Fuhrman said in the transcript. "There was four policemen, four guys. We broke 'em. Their faces were just mush. They had pictures of the walls with blood all the way to the ceiling and finger marks of trying to crawl out of the room."

Afterward, "we went downstairs with the garden hose," he continued, the transcript said. "We had blood all over our legs, everything. With the dark blue uniform in the dark, you can't see, but you get in the light, and it looks like somebody took red paint."

Once they were cleaned off, Fuhrman said, he and his colleagues went outside and began directing traffic.

The bottom line, he said: "You don't shoot a policeman. That's all there is to it."

LAPD Discovers Parallels

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