A Superior Court jury in Torrance acquitted a veteran Manhattan Beach police officer Friday of charges he assaulted a 20-year-old man during a traffic stop and filed a false police report.
After an eight-day trial in which two officers testified against their colleague, the jury deliberated 1 1/2 days before finding Eric Eccles, 27, not guilty of charges related to allegations that he repeatedly struck 20-year-old Daniel Wayne Chance after Chance ran away from him during a routine traffic stop last December.
The defense argued that Chance had resisted arrest and that Eccles had used proper force to subdue the man.
Deputy Dist. Atty. John Gilligan said he accepted the jury's decision. He said the jury apparently saw it as an "officer-versus-officer" case, and that there was not sufficient proof beyond a reasonable doubt. He said jurors from Torrance and Redondo Beach are "very supportive of their own police departments, and it's hard for them to conceptualize that police would engage in misconduct."
Defense lawyer Bill Seki said Eccles is still on paid administrative leave, but he hopes he can resume his job soon.
Eccles and another officer pulled Chance over on Rosecrans Avenue on Dec. 29, 2001, for fishtailing his car while speeding. Chance ran after he was given a ticket.
Chance testified before a grand jury that he was afraid he would lose his job as a heavy equipment operator trainer because he had been drinking and was younger than 21. Eccles chased him and found Chance hiding under the deck of a house.
Eccles, who testified in the trial, said he hit Chance only once in the knee because Chance was resisting.
Seki said two Manhattan Beach police officers testified that they saw Eccles strike Chance two or three times with a flashlight. Seki raised questions about the officers' credibility and their ability to see whether Chance was resisting arrest.
He also argued that Chance's injuries were not consistent with those that would have been suffered by someone hit repeatedly.