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THE INGLEWOOD BEATING

Line of Questioners for Officers at the Scene

Investigation: Local and federal authorities want more answers from two deputies and three Inglewood patrolmen.

July 12, 2002|BETH SHUSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

All but one of the six law enforcement officers at the scene of the Inglewood beating of 16-year-old Donovan Jackson remain at work, but they face questions from several agencies about what they did and what they saw, officials said Thursday.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley convened a criminal grand jury Wednesday to probe the use of force against Jackson during the Saturday incident. The U.S. Attorney's Office has launched a civil rights investigation, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and Inglewood Police Department are conducting internal reviews. The FBI is also investigating.

Both Inglewood Police Chief Ron Banks and Sheriff Lee Baca said Thursday that they believe their officers properly reported the alleged misconduct immediately after the arrest of the boy.

The incident began Saturday evening when two sheriff's deputies attempted to question a driver, Coby Chavis, about expired registration tags. Jackson, his son, came out of the gas station market and, deputies said, did not respond to requests to stay out of the car and to let them investigate the vehicle violations. Instead, the deputies said, the boy became tense and unresponsive, and resisted when one of them wanted to handcuff him.

Inglewood police officers then arrived, and a struggle ensued. A videotape, broadcast nationwide over the last several days, shows Inglewood Officer Jeremy Morse picking up the boy and slamming him down on the trunk of a patrol car. Morse then moves behind the handcuffed boy and punches him on the side of the face.

Although Los Angeles County sheriff's officials say they don't believe the two deputies at the scene engaged in wrongdoing, they said they have a list of questions that they want answered. The deputies, Carlos Lopez and Daniel Leon, will meet with internal affairs investigators today. The Sheriff's Department's Office of Independent Review--a group of attorneys hired to help internal investigations--is shaping the questions that the deputies will be asked.

The deputies are expected to testify before the grand jury next week. Lopez, 29, has been with the department seven years; Leon, 27, has been a deputy sheriff for six years. Both worked in the county jails prior to coming to Lennox, which is common procedure in the Sheriff's Department.

Three of the four Inglewood officers, Mariano Salcedo, Bijan Darvish and Antoine Crook, are at work between calls to discuss Saturday's beating before a county grand jury and an Inglewood Police Department internal investigation. Morse has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation. Salcedo has been with the department for eight years, Darvish for three years and Crook for one year.

The overlapping investigations are welcome to many people who say the different agencies will focus on separate but critical issues.

"I favor investigations from different agencies," said Merrick Bobb, a special counsel to the Board of Supervisors who oversees the Sheriff's Department. "Cooley is looking at, 'Did a crime occur?' That is different than asking the question of whether the deputies or Inglewood Police Department officers violated internal policies of either department."

Bobb said the different sets of questions will be valuable to a possible criminal proceeding and to possible tactical and procedural changes that could result from Saturday's incident.

Among the questions for the sheriff's deputies in the internal review will be why they decided to pursue the vehicle violation against Chavis in Inglewood, which is outside of the sheriff's territory. The deputies were on their way to eat when they spotted the expired registration tags on Chavis' car. Several sheriff's officials have questioned whether the deputies should conduct criminal investigations in other departments' areas.

Additionally, sheriff's officials still don't know if the deputies saw all of the force that appears on the videotape. In their report about the incident, which they filed Saturday night, the deputies said force was used during the scuffle to handcuff the boy. The deputies did not mention the officer punching the boy.

Richard Shinee, an attorney representing the deputies, said: "I am very confident that they acted appropriately, professionally and in accordance with the department's policies."

Baca agreed, saying he believes the deputies will provide the grand jury with "clear, thorough and complete information."

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