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BEATING AFTERMATH

$10,000 Is Sought for Defense of Man Who Videotaped Beating

Coalition: Inglewood community leaders say the fugitive's alleged offenses were 'minor.'

July 14, 2002|CARA MIA DiMASSA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Waving four checks in the air, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) announced Saturday that a coalition of Inglewood organizations and leaders is trying to raise $10,000 for the legal defense of Mitchell Crooks, the man who videotaped Inglewood police officers beating a 16-year-old boy last week.

Crooks was arrested Thursday on outstanding warrants for burglary and a 5-year-old hit-and-run accident in Placer County, where the warrants originated, after media attention on his role in bringing the Inglewood beating to light alerted authorities to his whereabouts.

Waters said the group had already collected more than $3,000 for Crooks, and hoped to collect the entire sum within 10 days.

"We are going to see to it that Mr. Crooks has a legal defense," she said.

"We will go to Placer," she continued. "We will stand with him. We will help to pay his lawyers. We will support his bail. We will do whatever is necessary to say to citizens, when you come forward, when you are willing to stand up, when you see abuse by the police department or anybody else, we are gonna honor you.

"We don't care what he's been accused of," she added.

"Those are minor offenses, we have learned, and we are going to help him out."

Los Angeles sheriff's deputies have said they were questioning Donovan Jackson's father about expired tags on his car's license plates when Jeremy J. Morse and three other Inglewood police officers suddenly arrived and became involved in a confrontation with Jackson.

Crooks, who was staying in a motel across the street from the gas station where the incident occurred, recorded two minutes of the confrontation.

That video, which has been repeatedly broadcast on television news, shows Morse lifting a limp, handcuffed Donovan Jackson by his clothes, smashing his head on a car trunk and then punching him in the face.

An Inglewood police report obtained by The Times showed that Jackson had been punched twice by another officer before the action on Crooks' tape began.

Members of the newly formed coalition, which included Inglewood ministers, block leaders, the city's chief administrative officer and Danny Bakewell of the Brotherhood Crusade, met Saturday morning in private at the True Vine Baptist Church.

At a news conference, participants said they had discussed how they might monitor the current investigations into the officers' actions. The group is considering the need for a civilian police board, a review of police training and an evaluation of the responsibilities of the Inglewood police chief.

Saturday evening, about 300 people crammed into Faith United Methodist Church in Inglewood to decry the beating of Jackson. Waters and comedian Dick Gregory were there.

Also Saturday, members of the Inglewood-based National Alliance for Positive Action announced at a community meeting that their organization was forming a citizens panel to make recommendations for the Inglewood Police Department.

And Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn, who previously had said that Morse should be fired and prosecuted, now urged residents to allow the legal system to take its course.

"I never suggested we should set aside due process," he said at the National Alliance meeting. Dorn, a former judge, wore a large belt buckle adorned with a judge's gavel over his blue jeans.

"My personal opinion hasn't changed" about the nature of the incident, he said, "but due process, justice, must be done."

At both morning meetings, community leaders said that Inglewood residents were capable of accomplishing whatever reform might be required.

"For now, we need to work with the Inglewood family to address a family problem," Daniel K. Tabor, a former Inglewood city councilman, said at the True Vine Baptist Church.

"We want to also acknowledge that we are organizing, not just to address our internal problem," Tabor continued, "but to also support Mitchell Crooks, who is a hero."

Bakewell said members of the Inglewood community plan to organize a massive celebration for Crooks when he leaves jail. "Our community wants to see him and welcome him as a family member," he said.

"As a matter of fact," Waters said, "we are going to ask the mayor to block off a whole block. And we are going to invite the entire community. We are going to have the biggest welcome party you have ever seen."

As another check was added to her pile, she shook it in the air in front of a bank of television cameras. "Ooh! Thank you! Another $200!"

*

Times staff writer Hector Becerra contributed to this report.

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