Black motorist Rodney King was driving no more than 65 mph during a chase that ended with his videotaped beating by club-wielding white police officers, California Highway Patrol audio tapes released Friday show.
The CHP radio conversations conflict with initial police reports placing the speed of King's Hyundai in excess of 100 mph.King, a paroled armed robber who police say was legally drunk at the time of the March 3 attack, was being pursued by CHP officers for speeding when police joined in and finally made the stop.
King, 25, suffered injuries ranging from skull fractures to bruised ribs. A city police sergeant and three officers have been charged in the assault, which was videotaped by a bystander.
The amateur video, shown repeatedly on network television, has created a national furor and tarnished the reputation of the Los Angeles Police Department.
The 13-page transcript shows the CHP officers communicated in a professional manner, as opposed to the racial slurs and laughter on tapes and computer messages among city police. The Highway Patrol released the transcripts at the media's request.
The specific violation that led the CHP officers to begin the chase wasn't clear from the transcript, nor is it possible to determine the duration of the chase.
The tape recording begins with a CHP officer reporting, "LA50 with a roller," meaning the officers were in pursuit of a moving violator. The operator responds, "9850, go with your roller."
The chase began on the Foothill Freeway in the San Fernando Valley, 15 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, and proceeded on city streets.
"LA60, we're southbound on Paxton (Avenue) about 50 miles an hour. There's . . . appears to be three male blacks in the vehicle. It's a white Hyundai, I believe," a CHP officer tells his dispatcher at one point.
At several points during the pursuit, CHP officers relayed their speed. It never was higher than 65 mph.
Seconds later, the CHP unit reported there was a failure to yield westbound at Paxton. The operator called to see if another unit was nearby.
City police squad cars, a school district police car and a helicopter also joined in the chase by the time King's car pulled over.
At 12:54 a.m., the CHP unit radioed: "Code 4, three in custody." Code 4 means no further assistance is needed at the scene.
Moments later, a CHP officer told dispatch, "Just for information . . . the party is going to have to be hospitalized . . . injuries at the termination of the pursuit."
The audio tapes were released shortly after the four indicted officers won a delay in their case. But Superior Court Judge Gary Klausner said he wants the four to enter pleas next week.
Sgt. Stacey Koon and officers Ted Briseno, Laurence Powell and Timothy Wind stood grim-faced during the brief hearing. Rookie officer Wind appeared particularly distraught, and Koon gave him reassuring pats on the back.
King remained in a hospital Friday with 11 skull fractures, a broken ankle and a variety of other injuries sustained during the beating.
"There's a good possibility that he'll have permanent numbness, permanent paralysis and problems with chewing and opening up his mouth without discomfort," said Dr. Alvin Reiter, a plastic surgeon.
Reiter headed a team of four surgeons who operated on King for five hours on March 14. Releasing new details, Reiter said King sustained a shattered right cheek bone, shattered right eye socket and fractured right sinus bones.
To repair the damage, surgeons inserted wires to help stabilize his broken face bones and placed a plastic film in the eye socket to help the eye move, Reiter said.
King's blood-alcohol level was measured five hours after the beating at 0.79, just under California's limit for drunken driving of 0.80. Police have said that would indicate he was over the limit at the time he was stopped.
Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, 64, has been under intensifying pressure to resign by a diverse group ranging from fellow police chiefs to traditional foes such as the American Civil Liberties Union. But Gates said he plans to stay.
"This is not an issue that will go away immediately," Gates said in a speech Friday. "It has to be dealt with, and I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to stay here to deal with it.
"There's been this lynch mob mentality. Let's not indict them until we know all the facts," he said.
Lawyers said at a hearing that the indicted officers could not enter pleas because there had not been enough time to study the grand jury transcript.
Meanwhile, a newspaper reported Friday that officers who arrested King taunted him at the hospital, boasting they "played a little hardball" while beating him with their batons, the grand jury was told.