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Video appears to show LAPD officer hitting suspect

A television news camera captures the end of the police chase on video from a helicopter.
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Officer appears to beat suspect on videotape.
Los Angeles (California)
Najee Ali
William J. Bratton

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- A Los Angeles Police Department officer pursuing the driver of a stolen car Wednesday was seen on videotape appearing to beat the suspect after he apparently had surrendered.

Mayor James Hahn said the videotape jeopardizes reforms made in the wake of similar incidents and will test the "bond of trust" with the community.

Video shot from news helicopters shows the suspect running for a short distance before slowing to a stop, apparently opting to surrender to officers pursuing him on foot.

The suspect appeared to raise both arms and drop to his knees. The first arriving officer drew his weapon, but put it back in his holster and then tackled the suspect, forcing him to the ground.

The second officer also jumps on the suspect, who is on the ground in a prone position, while a third officer arrives and appears to kick him in the head. This same officer then drops to the ground, takes out his flashlight and can be seen swinging down at the suspect's head area 11 times. He also appears to use his knee to strike the suspect.

The video shows other LAPD officers arriving on foot and surrounding the suspect, who remains motionless on the ground.

Officers began chasing the stolen car shortly after 5 a.m. (8 a.m. ET).

The pursuit ended in the city of Compton, when the driver jumped out of the vehicle and fled.

Officers to be quizzed

Deputy police chief Earl Paysinger said the 37-year-old African-American suspect received medical treatment.

Paysinger said the man had some slight abrasions and had complained of an injury to his nose, but was otherwise "fine."

The suspect had not filed a formal complaint, he said, but nine officers are being interviewed about the incident.

"We will go through this with a fine-toothed comb, asking the questions the community wants to know," Los Angeles Inspector General Andre Birotte promised.

David Cunningham, the civilian head of the city's police department, added: "Assuming there is a finding of excessive force, there will be zero tolerance."

The footage is reminiscent of the 1991 beating of Rodney King by four LAPD officers.

"Unless some heads roll, we will return to some dark, bad, old days of the LAPD," Los Angeles Urban League President John Mack said.

Community activist Najee Ali held a news conference in front of LAPD's Parker Center shortly after the broadcast of the incident to express his outrage at the beating and demand an independent investigation.

He called on the Justice Department and the attorney general's office to get involved.

"We want this officer criminally prosecuted," Ali said. "We saw an unarmed man be beaten on camera who seemed to be cooperating and not resisting arrest so we're outraged and shocked ... It's very unfortunate that after the Rodney King beating we still have rogue officers within the LAPD."

Ali said that the LAPD contacted him first to tell him about the incident and to say the police were "on top of this."

But he also told CNN the LAPD had asked him to cancel his news conference, and when he refused, the department asked if he could "soften it up."

At the news conference, Ali called the incident a litmus test for LAPD Chief William Bratton.

"We're sending a message out to Chief Bratton that we've gotten rid of [former chief] Daryl Gates because he did not take the Rodney King beating -- police abuse -- serious and if he [Bratton] doesn't take this serious, we'll get rid of you," Ali said.

The four officers who were seen beating King on the infamous video were acquitted of all charges in 1992, leading to days of rioting in Los Angeles that left 55 people dead.

Two of the officers were later convicted in a federal trial of violating King's civil rights.

Last week, the LAPD announced it had fully implemented reforms it was required to put into practice by a federal consent decree in 2001, after the Justice Department found numerous instances of civil rights violations in the agency.

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