A Los Angeles police (LAPD) officer is under investigation for allegedly beating and kicking a suspect, who was being held down by other officers. On October 24, 2014, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck released a statement that he was “extremely concerned about this particular use of force.”
The victim, Clinton Alford, 22, was taken to a hospital for stitches and a head scan. In an interview with the LA Times, he reported being in fear for his life during the encounter. “I was just praying that they wouldn’t kill me. I just closed my eyes and tried to hold on,” Alford said.
Alford was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk, when a car pulled up behind him. He heard a man shouting a command to stop, without first identifying himself as a police officer. When someone grabbed the back of his bike, Alford jumped off and ran. After a short foot pursuit, two LAPD officers caught up to him. Footage from the security camera on an industrial building nearby captured Alford voluntarily lying down and placing his hands behind his back.
Several police officials who viewed the recording said that the officers were able to restrain Alford, who made no movements and did not resist. Two law enforcement officials who viewed the video said it was clear to them Alford was handcuffed as soon as he got on the ground.
Shortly thereafter, a patrol car pulled up to the scene. A uniformed LAPD officer, whom the sources described as “heavyset” or “very large,” got out of the car and rushed towards Alford, who was still being held on the ground by the other officers. The newly-arrived officer immediately started stomping and kicking the victim. Then the officer proceeded to drop to the ground and delivered a number of strikes with his elbows to the back of Alford’s head and upper body.
Surveillance camera footage reportedly shows Alford’s head hitting the pavement from the severe force of the strikes. The LAPD officer proceeded to lean one knee into the small of Alford’s back, placing the other knee on the victim’s neck. LA’s finest then started bouncing on the victim’s body with the officer’s full body weight. Throughout much of the altercation, two other LAPD officers continued holding Alford down. They eventually moved away.
Several police officials who saw the surveillance footage told the LA Times that the officer kicked Alford’s head with great force. One said, the LAPD officer resembled “a football player kicking a field goal.” Another described the excessive force as “horrific.” The suspect, they said, had surrendered and was not resisting. Alford confirmed that he had already been handcuffed before being kicked.
When the beating concluded, Alford’s body was limp and motionless. It took several LAPD officers to carry him to a patrol car, like a rag doll.
LAPD officers were apparently responding to a detective’s radio call for help in locating a robbery suspect. They spotted Alford, assumed him to be the suspect in question and attempted to apprehend him. In reality, Alford was not the suspect the detective was pursuing.
An arrest record provided to Alford by police listed the names and serial numbers of four officers involved in the arrest. That document identified the “arresting officer” as Julio Cortez, who joined the LAPD in 2000. The “second arresting officer” was Richard Garcia, who has been with the LAPD for 10 years. Other officers involved were Joshua Tornek and Ruben Rosas. Several sources identified Garcia as the officer who struck Alford.
LAPD officers involved in the arrest and a sergeant who arrived on scene afterwards have been placed on administrative leave, which means that all of them are continuing to collect their salaries, courtesy of American taxpayers.
Surveillance footage is often instrumental in exposing police brutality. On July 16, 2014, LAPD Officer Jonathan Lai was charged with assault under the color of authority and assault with a deadly weapon in the beating of a man Lai had detained in 2012. “Video surveillance … shows Lai repeatedly using his police baton to strike the man, who was on his knees with his hands on his head,” according to the L.A. District Attorney’s Office.
While the statements of victims are often disregarded in favor of the official version of events, the camera doesn’t lie. Recording violent arrests and confrontations may be the best way to expose brutality, corruption and abuse of power under the color of law.