The black man seen on nationwide TV being kicked and beaten by a group of white policemen gave his first description of an incident that has caused Mayor Tom Bradley to call for an investigation to determine if there is a pattern of excessive police force against minorities.
Police Chief Daryl Gates called for an internal investigation and continued to deny his department has a racist use-of-force policy. The lawyers representing beating victim Rodney King, 25, told reporters they did not want to create a racial incident - only protect the rights of a human being and help keep it from happening again."Rod's family has made it very clear that they're not looking to turn this into a racial crusade," said King attorney Steve Learman. "We're here to vindicate the rights of one individual." He added, however, that the officers should "get what's coming to them."
But the FBI has opened a civil rights investigation, and the American Civil Liberties Union called for Gates' resignation and accused the officers involved of being a "gang" that engaged in administering "street justice" and just happened to get caught by a citizen with a videotape camera.
Bradley expressed shock at Sunday's incident, the one-minute tape of which has been shown several times on national TV, and cited two recent incidents of Los Angeles police officers roughly treating prominent black men as reason for trying to determine if such conduct was pervasive among officers.
"I have asked the department and the Police Commission to take a look to see if there is a pattern," he said.
Bradley said the now-infamous videotape made by a resident of a nearby apartment complex "is a clear-cut case of improper use of a baton, an excessive use of force."
The tape clearly shows several officers watching as at least two white officers club and kick the 6-3, 225-pound King, even as he lay virtually motionless in the street after being shot with an electric Taser stun gun designed to incapacitate suspects without causing permanent injury.
King, who was recently released from a two-year prison term for armed robbery, spoke with reporters Wednesday evening as he was being processed for release from the County Jail.
Virtually his entire body battered and swollen, one eye filled with blood and a cast on a broken ankle, King was asked - in the presence of his two attorneys - his version of what happened that night.
Contradicting the videotape showing him waving his hands and crawling on all fours, King said the beating only began after he was handcuffed on the pavement. "After that they continued to pound on me, beat on me . . . all over my body. They beat me where it hurt. It hurt real bad," King said.
"I was scared, scared for my life. So, I laid down real calmly and took it like a man," he said. "They could have killed me."
He said he heard no racial slurs or comments from the officers. He was asked for his opinions about police, based on his contact with them. "They consider themselves different humans than we are," he said. "They're all a family. They're one family and we're another."
An official law enforcement version of the incident says the whole thing started when a highway patrol officer spotted King's 1988 Hyundai doing up to 115 mph on a freeway in the San Fernando Valley and gave chase. City police were called in to make the arrest after the car exited the freeway, a traffic report says. Police have not released the officers' report of the arrest and beating, but the traffic report said King resisted being handcuffed and tried to "charge" the officers.
King not only denied attacking police, he even denied there was a chase and said he did not know police cars were behind him until he got off the freeway a few blocks from where he was stopped.
The district attorney's office rejected charges of evading arrest and reckless driving, saying there were too many holes in the police report on which the case was based. A spokeswoman said charges may be filed later, but not until more witnesses - including two men in the car with King - are interviewed.
Police officials have refused to release the names of the officers involved, but Bradley said they have been taken off patrol duty and are now "either working at a desk or on vacation. They are not going to be working the streets and dealing with the public."