Beaten Teen Suing Cops, City, County

Teenager Donovan Chavez is slammed onto the back of a squad car by a Los Angeles police officer in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood on July 6, 2002, in this video image from footage acquired by Reuters television. The police officer, identified as Inglewood officer Jeremy Morse, was suspended on July 8 following the release of the videotaped footage of the incident, which took place at a gas station after police tried to question the 16-year-old black teenager and his father. REUTERS

A black teenager who was slammed onto a car and punched by a white policeman during a videotaped arrest sued the city of Inglewood, four of its officers, Los Angeles County and three sheriff's deputies Wednesday.

The federal lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and alleges misconduct and violations of constitutional rights.

"We believe this is a seven-figure case," said his attorney John Sweeney.

The Inglewood Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said they had no comment.

Various law enforcement agencies have opened investigations into the arrest, and dozens of angry protesters descended on Inglewood City Hall on Tuesday, demanding an end to police brutality and the ouster of Officer Jeremy Morse.

Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn said the officer should be fired and charged with assault.

"I will not under any circumstances tolerate the type of conduct I observed in the videotape," Dorn said Tuesday. "In my opinion the district attorney's office should act."

Rep. Maxine Waters sent a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft demanding an investigation, and charged that the officer's treatment of the teenager was racially motivated.

Ashcroft said in a statement Wednesday that he was troubled by the tape. "The events caught on videotape ... last weekend trouble me greatly, because they raise clear questions about whether that law enforcement mission was being served properly in Inglewood," Ashcroft said.

The FBI said it has opened a civil rights investigation. The Inglewood Police Department, the Los Angeles County sheriff and district attorney also are investigating.

Morse, a three-year veteran who was put on leave Monday with pay, could not be reached for comment. Calls to the president of the Inglewood Police Officers Association were not immediately returned.

The incident happened during a traffic stop Saturday afternoon near the Los Angeles airport.

A tourist's videotape showed Morse hoisting a handcuffed Jackson to his feet, slamming his body onto a car, then punching him in the face. Two other officers appear to intervene, with at least one trying to pull away the first officer's arm.

Meanwhile, CBS News has learned of new allegations against Morse.

Neilson Williams, 32, claims he was handcuffed and beaten by Morse and other officers June 23. He says he lapsed into a coma and was hospitalized for several days.

"One guy was like beating my back … and was choking me," Williams told CBS News. "Had me like in a choke hold."

Williams alleges the officers gave no explanation for stopping him. He said he has filed a formal complaint with Inglewood police.

Sgt. Ron Ragan said the complaint is confidential and an investigation was being conducted. A police department news release said Williams was belligerent and resisted arrest.

Police and sheriff's officials said the teen lunged at deputies and was combative, while the boy's father, the driver of the car that was stopped, said his son cooperated and Morse attacked without being provoked. The family's lawyer, Joe Hopkins, said the teen is developmentally disabled with no arrest record.

The teen was booked for investigation of assault on an officer; his father was cited for driving with a suspended license.
  • Lloyd Vries

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