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NAACP Names Cops In Philly Beatings

Justin Timberlake, right, performs for the crowd before he hosts the MTV Europe Music Awards at The Bella Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark, Thursday Nov. 2, 2006.
AP
A local NAACP leader on Friday named four officers he says were involved in last week's videotaped beating of a black suspect, and he threatened to name 18 more if officials don't do it first.

J. Whyatt Mondesire said the officers were identified on the television news crew's video by several current and former officers.

"The public should know who is among the most lawless of the lawmen," Mondesire, president of the NAACP's Philadelphia chapter, said at a news conference Friday with the family of the suspect, Thomas Jones. "The entire force is not guilty of brutality. These men are."

Almost two dozen officers kicked and punched Jones, who is black, on July 12 after a police chase and shootout in which Jones and a policeman were wounded. The beating was recorded from a TV news helicopter and broadcast around the country.

The U.S. Justice Department opened an investigation into whether Thomas Jones' civil rights were violated.

Mondesire said the four officers he named were among the "most zealous," and he said he would publish the rest of the names July 28 in his newspaper, the Philadelphia Sunday Sun.

Mondesire said he would be satisfied if the officers were charged or if city or police officials released the officers' names and explained the status of the investigation.

Two of the four officers he identified are black and two are white. Mondesire has said he does not believe the incident was fueled by racism.

Police spokesman Sgt. Roland Lee declined to comment, and neither he nor Cathie Abookire, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's office, would confirm the names of the officers Mondesire said were involved.

No officers have been charged. Commissioner John Timoney has said the department has reassigned them to desk duty.

Jones, 30, remained hospitalized Friday with a low-grade fever and blood clot in his leg, and likely will be arraigned next week, Mondesire said.

The incident came less than three weeks before the start of the Republican National Convention, which is being held in Philadelphia this year and has put the mayor and the police department under national scrutiny.

Timoney, a popular figure who enjoys wide support in the black community, admits the tape doesn't look good, but strongly disputes the idea that Jones is Philadelphia's Rodney King, noting that King was wanted for a traffic violation.

He says, "There's a world of difference between this and Rodney King, and I think comparisons like that are inflammatory, are irresponsible."

Even for Philadelphia's black ministers, this is not about race, it's about excessive force.

Vernal Simms, president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, says: "We saw that there were as many black officers kicking and punching and jumping as white. We are not questioning that. We are concerned about the whole brutality."

Philadelphia Mayor John Street, who is black, calls the tape troublingbut adds, "We have to keep in mind that the police were in the process of apprehending a criminal suspect who had resisted several attempts by the police to arrest him and who shot a police officer in the process."

Police said they began chasing Jones after spotting him driving a car that had been taken in a carjacking July 1. Police said the car crashed, and they exchanged gunfire with Jones. Though wounded, Jones stole a police car and fled before he was cornered and subdued, authorities said.

Jones was charged with attempted murder of a police officer, assault, resisting arrest and other offenses. He was also charged with a purse snatching that occurred days before the arrest, and an outstanding robbery charge.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday that Jones allegedly had cocaine in his system at the time of the arrest. The story cites an unidentified police commander as a source and does not say how much cocaine was found in his system.

Authorities have previously said they found a crack pipe in the car Jones is accused of stealing. Police won't comment on the Inquirer story.

Also Friday, police said a narcotics officer would be put on desk duty for having T-shirts made that joke about the case. The shirts show officers surrounding and beating Jones, with the words "Welcome, America" in two-inch-high letters.

Kenyatta Lee sold the T-shirts to other officers for $10 each, a source close to the police commissioner told The Associated Press on Friday. Two captains will be transferred to the night shift because they failed to stop the T-shirt sales, police said.

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