LOS ANGELES -- A police officer who allegedly kicked and beat a suspect who had surrendered and was lying on the ground pleaded not guilty Monday to assault under color of authority.
Richard Garcia, 34, was charged in connection with the arrest of Clinton Alford Jr. on Oct. 16 in South Los Angeles. He could face up to three years in county jail if convicted.
Officers investigating a robbery spotted Alford and thought he matched the robber's description, prosecutors say.
Alford, who has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, contends that he was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk when a car pulled up and someone shouted at him to stop. The man didn't identify himself as a police officer and Alford kept pedaling until someone grabbed the back of his bike. Alford then jumped off and ran, Alford said.
After a short chase, two officers caught up with Alford, who said he surrendered and lay down with his hands behind his back.
Alford, 22, contends that he already was restrained and wasn't resisting when he was beaten with elbows and fists and after being handcuffed was kicked in the head and body until he blacked out.
Alford was kicked "from my head to my temple to my ears," he said at a news conference. "I was just praying to God that they wouldn't kill me. I felt that I was going to die."
Alford was arrested on suspicion of drug possession and resisting arrest, and criminal charges were filed but later dropped.
Garcia has been off-duty and remains on paid leave while the Los Angeles Police Department investigates.
"As I stated immediately after this incident, any officer that abuses the public's trust is not welcome in the LAPD," Police Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement. "The LAPD will take swift action to investigate and refer appropriate cases for prosecution ... whenever an officer is suspected of committing a criminal act."
Alford applauded the criminal charge.
"I just want to thank God for some type of justice and it's been a long journey and I've been going through a lot physically and mentally," he said at the news conference.
His attorney, Caree Harper, said charging Garcia with a crime was only a first step.
"We're not done," she said. "We want his job."
Harper said the incident was caught by a surveillance camera and she called Beck to release the video.