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Tapes Tell Incomplete Tale of Police Beating

Inglewood: Security cameras, interviews fill in some details of what happened at gas station.


It was a pleasant day, sun shining, afternoon sliding into evening on July 6 when Coby Chavis pulled his tan 1997 Ford Taurus into the Thrifty gas station on Century Boulevard at Freeman Avenue in Inglewood.

Chavis, a 41-year-old Inglewood man, is employed in construction scaffolding and has a history of run-ins with police. He was, he said, on his way to visit his father. With him was his son Donovan Jackson, 16, a student at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale.

Within hours, Jackson's image would be flashed across the nation, his body pictured being thrown across a police car, his face struck hard with an officer's fist. Those images, which riveted Southern California and reached to Washington and beyond, offered one part of the story of Jackson's confrontation with Inglewood police.

A fuller story emerges, however, from participants, police reports and segments of videotape shot from various angles. In addition to the widely broadcast tape by itinerant videographer Mitchell Crooks, gas station security cameras shot photographs every three seconds; some of those have been made public, others, still unreleased, have been viewed by The Times.

Those accounts lend some credence to the police contention that the televised blows to Jackson came after several minutes of scuffling and raised tempers.

But they also capture the incident's pivotal moment, when Inglewood Officer Jeremy J. Morse threw the youth onto the police car and punched him--and all accounts concur that Jackson was dazed and in handcuffs when that happened.

Morse has been indicted on felony assault charges; his partner, Bijan Darvish, is charged with filing a false report.

The events that left Jackson hurt and those two officers facing the possibility of prison unfolded over roughly 11 minutes.


5 p.m.

Chavis stopped under the station's broad red-striped canopy to draw gas from a pump in the northwest corner of the station. He sent his son to pay. Jackson went into the station's closet-sized mini-mart, where a cashier works in a steel-and-glass booth.

Jackson is slight, weighing 136 pounds. He is known to classmates as quiet and easygoing, if a little slow academically. He was, in fact, classified for special education on the basis of what his family says is an "auditory processing disorder," which would mean he doesn't easily understand what people say.

At the moment that his father pulled into the station, though, his family says, Donovan Jackson was a typically hungry teenager who had a hankering for some potato chips. Inside the mini-mart, he picked a bag from the small selection, paid and opened the door to return to the car.

Outside, deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department were on their regular patrol.

The Thrifty station lies on a heavily traveled commercial strip between the Hollywood Park racetrack and Los Angeles International Airport. Its neighbors are a humdrum mix of fast-food outlets, auto repair shops and budget motels serving LAX.

Although it is in Inglewood, a patchwork of various police cruisers typically plies Century Boulevard in front of the station, which lies within a mile of three other jurisdictions: the cities of Los Angeles and Hawthorne, and the unincorporated Lennox area, which is patrolled by the Sheriff's Department.

It is not uncommon, officials say, for one agency to make a stop in the other's territory. "Normal, routine stuff," said Assistant Sheriff Dennis Dahlman, who worked the sheriff's Lennox area as a patrolman for 11 years.


5:02 p.m.

A sheriff's cruiser passed the station, heading east on Century. Noticing the Taurus, deputies rounded the block and pulled into the station. Nothing in their report offers a hint about what drew their attention. Dahlman, who has answered questions for the Sheriff's Department about the case, said that issue remains under review.

Once in the station and behind the Taurus, Deputies Carlos Lopez and Daniel Leon noticed that the registration tag on the car's rear license plate had expired in April. They ran a quick check of Department of Motor Vehicle records, which confirmed that it was expired.

Ordinarily, Dahlman said, deputies who spot a recently expired registration simply ask the driver to take care of it. But when Lopez and Leon approached Chavis and asked for his driver's license, they discovered another problem: His license, he said, had been suspended.

Jackson, meantime, had emerged from the mini-mart with his potato chips; the gas station tape indicates that Jackson walked toward the car at 5:02:39, carrying something in his left hand. According to Chavis and lawyers for the family, the deputies saw the boy approach and ordered him to drop the bag of chips.

In his report after the incident, Lopez didn't mention any chips, but said he asked the youth not to get back in his father's car. Either way, the deputies didn't get what they wanted.

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