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Teen Denies Provoking Police Jabs

July 31, 2002|ANNA GORMAN and STEVE BERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Teenager Donovan Jackson told grand jurors that he did not provoke the scuffle that occurred moments before an Inglewood police officer slammed him into the trunk of a patrol car and then punched him in the jaw July 6.

Jackson said he was pummeled and choked into unconsciousness by officers and does not remember the beating that was captured on an amateur videotape that spurred a national uproar, according to the testimony he gave to the Los Angeles County Grand Jury earlier this month.

The statements of Jackson, who has not commented publicly, are contained in a 450-page transcript of the grand jury proceedings that was unsealed late Tuesday by Superior Court Judge David Wesley after an oral motion by the district attorney's office.

The transcript also shows that two Inglewood police officers and two sheriff's deputies were given immunity by prosecutors to testify before the grand jury after they initially refused to answer questions.

None of the four said they saw Inglewood Officer Jeremy Morse throw a handcuffed Jackson onto the patrol car. But the two immunized Inglewood officers, after being shown the video shot from a motel across the street, said Morse's actions were not acceptable police behavior.

The transcript also reveals that at least some of the officers at the scene were aware they were being taped as the incident unfolded.

The grand jury, after six days of testimony, indicted Morse on a charge of assault under the color of authority, and his partner, Bijan Darvish, on a charge of filing a false police report. The two officers, who did not testify before the grand jury, have pleaded not guilty to the felony charges, which carry prison terms of up to three years if they are convicted.

In addition to the law enforcement officers granted immunity, the grand jury also heard testimony from witnesses including Jackson's father, Coby Chavis, the amateur videographer Mitchell Crooks and three county Fire Department employees who went to the scene of the incident at an Inglewood gas station.

Contrary to assertions in police reports that he violently resisted officers, Jackson, 16, testified that he obeyed every order from the moment he first encountered one of two sheriff's deputies who were questioning Chavis, 41, about an expired registration tag. Jackson said he peacefully obeyed orders to submit to a pat-down search and that he felt "violated," frightened and "a little bit" angry because of the search.

Jackson said he also complied with a request to sit in the back of the sheriff's patrol car. The violence, he testified, erupted when he stood up upon seeing Morse and Darvish arrive. Jackson told grand jurors he stood because he feared the officers would beat him. He said a deputy then put his hand on Jackson's neck, at which time the officers began hitting him, the youth said.

Jackson described "four or five officers coming at me" and said they hit him with four quick punches to the jaw, after which they put him on the ground, where the beating continued. He said someone hit him near his ear with a baton or a flashlight, a statement that he repeated to a paramedic, according to the transcript.

When one of the officers wrapped his arm around his neck and squeezed until he could not breathe, Jackson said, he started kicking and trying to get free until he passed out. The youth said he did not regain consciousness until Morse was walking him to a patrol car after the trunk-slamming incident. He said Morse made him sit in the car and told him, "I'm going to break your nose." Another officer said he was going to break Jackson's neck, the youth said.

The boy said his injuries included a swollen face, a red eye, a cut on his head and continuing headaches.

The two Inglewood officers and the two sheriff's deputies granted immunity each told a slightly different version of events, but there was agreement that the teenager did not resist after he was handcuffed on the ground at the end of the scuffle.

Inglewood Officer Mariano Salcedo, an eight-year veteran of the force, said that a deputy and two Inglewood officers were on top of Jackson when he arrived and that he could see the youth moving his feet.

He said the officers repeatedly told Jackson to "stop resisting." Salcedo said he got on top of Jackson's legs and later helped roll him from his back to his stomach. He said Jackson stopped resisting when the officers handcuffed him.

Salcedo said he walked away to call into the police station and never saw Morse slam Jackson onto the trunk of the car. "I heard a thump, like something being placed on something," Salcedo said, apparently referring to the moment seen on the videotape in which Morse slammed Jackson onto the trunk.

Moments later, Salcedo said, he heard Morse yell, "Let me go, let me go," and "flinch back with his hips" just before he saw the officer strike Jackson in the jaw. Morse has said Jackson grabbed him in the groin area. Salcedo testified that he did not see Jackson grab the officer.

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