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Police Brutality During Westwood Protest Alleged

March 21, 2003|Akilah johnson and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

A Long Beach woman who was struck by a police baton at an antiwar demonstration in Westwood filed a complaint Thursday with the Los Angeles Police Department, alleging brutality.

Anna Christensen, 58, said she was photographing the Wilshire Boulevard sit-in Wednesday when an officer hit her in the leg and then in the chest before fellow protesters pulled her to the ground.

"Nobody was on him. Nobody was on any of those cops," Christensen said.

A second photographer, Heidi Werntz, said she also was struck by the same officer without justification.

Werntz, 26, said she was on the sidewalk snapping photos of chanting protesters when she noticed an officer swinging his baton, and managed to snap several shots of the officer before being hit herself.

After being struck in the sternum, Werntz said she turned to run and was hit two more times, once on the arm and the other on the leg.

"The strangest thing about it was no other cop was acting in that manner. He was the only one," Werntz said. "I don't understand what made him hit me. I wasn't even protesting."

During the incident, witnesses took pictures of the officer striking two women with his baton and pushing a man. One of the victims identified the officer in the picture as the man who hit her. The badge number in the photo matched that of Christopher Paul Mayberry, 33, a seven-year LAPD veteran.

LAPD spokesman Lt. Horace Frank declined to identify the officer, citing an ongoing investigation. He said the videotaped sequence showing the officer swinging his baton "appeared troublesome, but needed to be thoroughly investigated."

"If any investigation concludes misconduct on behalf of the officer, we'll take appropriate action," Frank said. "It is important to remember protesters are not targeting the LAPD. They are simply exercising their 1st Amendment rights. Our job is to ensure they can exercise those rights."

About 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, KCAL Channel 9 news took videotape of an officer using his baton to shove two women back and then swatting the second across the knees when she stepped forward to confront the officer.

The officer also is seen pushing down a young man and taking a swing at a young woman trying to photograph his badge.

A copy of the videotape was given to LAPD internal affairs officers for investigation.

Christensen was treated at a hospital for bruises and released. Werntz said she also suffered bruises.

Assistant Police Chief Sharon Papa said at least 30 adults and 10 juveniles were arrested in Wednesday's protest in Westwood.

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