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Special Event

Philadelphia Black Clergy, NAACP Leaders Hold News Conference on Videotaped Police Beating Case

Aired July 13, 2000 - 10:55 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Want to take you now to Philadelphia where the Philadelphia head of the NAACP, Jerry Mondesire, has been meeting with police there in light of a disturbing videotape we saw of an arrest that took place there yesterday.

Let's listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... chairman of the Social and Civic Committee of Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity.

JERRY MONDESIRE, PRESIDENT, PHILADELPHIA CHAPTER, NAACP: The brief statement is that we had an amicable meeting with the police commissioner, Timoney, he was very frank in discussing the case with us. He is in the process now of making preparations for Reverend Shine (ph) and Reverend Simms (ph) to visit Mr. Jones and his doctors. We are in this process now of also going to see the Jones family to talk to them about the next steps they will have to take.

He also explained to us in great detail the steps of the investigation, which are really a three-prong investigation. One obviously, is into the crime that was committed which triggered this whole incident. The second investigation is an internal investigation into the shooting of Mr. Jones and then, of course, the shots that were shot back at the police officers. And finally, there will be an investigation into the videotaped brutality that was taking place on the streets of Philadelphia.

We at the NAACP strongly believe this was a case of excessive force. This was a case where force was used above and beyond the call of duty. Officers were seen jumping over their cars to kick and stomp Mr. Jones, who had already been wounded multiple times by police weapons.

And so we have urged the commissioner to speed up that investigation, to make sure that it happens without any delays or convolutions, as we've seen in the past. And he has pledged that he will do that and He's also that we will meet with him on a regular basis to know about the progress of that investigation.

So our overall assessment of the meeting was very positive. We have confidence that this commissioner is different than past commissioners and that this investigation will be treated at the highest levels possible. He also told us that the IAD has been called in on overtime to press ahead with this probe.

QUESTION: Sir, do you believe that race was a factor in this beating?

MONDESIRE: It's too early to make that kind of judgment and we're not going to make any kind of preliminary indictments of either the police officers or Mr. Jones regarding race or any activities that were taking place. It was less than 24 hours ago and so to make a comment about that would be absurd.

QUESTION: What's your feeling about why police reaction was made the way they did ... (OFF MIKE)

MONDESIRE: My opinion is that they overreacted. They probably picked up the stupidity of Frank Costello (ph) when he said that when you hurt one police officer you hurt us all. And it just seems obvious that the police want a melee, a rush to judgment to kick and stomp somebody they thought may have shot somebody. They weren't even really sure who did what. And so that is what the whole country and maybe even the whole world has seen now of the Philadelphia police department.

It comes out a history of violence and brutality in this department for over 30 years and that is what Commissioner Timoney and the Black Clergy and the NAACP have been resisting for a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What -- and also let me say this. What we are trying to do, we're hoping that the black community of Philadelphia will remain calm because we are very much -- we have seen the film, as they have seen it. And we agree with Jerry that the -- it was excessive force. But we are hoping that the black community in Philadelphia will remain calm while we keep the mayor and while we keep the commissioner on target, making sure that the investigations are above board and that are fair.

It will take some time, we understand that. But we want the black community in Philadelphia to understand that we will, in fact, keep their feet to the fire, to make sure that the investigation is done above board and fair.

We have my vice president of Black Clergy is on the Police Advisory Commission and he is one of the investigators. And so we will have a direct inside contact to make sure that the investigations are above board. But we are asking at this point for the community, the black community of Philadelphia, to remain calm as we continue to try to deal with this issue.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the way that the case is being handled so far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are satisfied the way it has been handled so far. Our only complaint, I believe, is that we should have been contacted last night. As black preachers in Philadelphia, the religious community, when something like this happens, the mayor should have contacted us last night to at least inform us and then bring us in so that we -- our main concern is to keep calm in Philadelphia.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our reaction is that we believe, as it appears, as we've seen it, that it is excessive force. We are not happy with it, we are not satisfied with it. But we also understand that we cannot go around and tear up Philadelphia. What we want to do is to make sure that the investigations are done. We're not happy with it. In our minds, in the back of our minds, it does bring for us the whole Rodney King issue in California. So we are very much concerned about the film. We've seen it like everybody else has seen it and we realize that it definitely was excessive force. You cannot be shot four, five times and then be dragged out of a car and stomped and beat by it looked to be 20 police officers, 25 police officers, and then to grab him in a headlock and to throw him in a police car.

QUESTION: But you're not going to say whether race -- you believe race was a factor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me address that.

The excessive use of force speaks of lack of training and lack of confidence on the officers who are in a tense situation, such as what occurred on last evening, on yesterday. Therefore, it would be our desire to see more intense training to deal with issues on the street at that magnitude. It transcends, therefore, the issue of race. Perhaps at some point it may, but there were black officers as well involved in this incident, and therefore it speaks more to the issue of the training, the lack thereof and the need for more intensive training.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Reverend Bernie (ph) Simms, president of Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm Reverend Robert Shine, vice president of Black Clergy and chairman of the social and civic committee of Black Clergy.

QUESTION: What happens next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens next is that we will continue to monitor and to be accessible to the commissioner and the mayor, that we might have the leadership of our city sit down and discuss what should be done and follow the investigation to its conclusion. Hopefully, as it reaches the district attorney, hopefully, all things being equal and considered, things will work out to the entire city's satisfaction as to the police conduct, the police behavior, and how they handled this.

We might say that police brutality, because of the use of excessive force, may mean that if it happens to one, it happens to all. And while -- if an officer is shot, we certainly do regret that and our prayers are for the family and for the officers who were injured in this incident, but at the same time we must be concerned for the victim who also was shot four or five times. And we did not see him being placed on a gurney and then taken to the hospital. But, rather, he was in a neck hold and embraced by other officers and drug off to a car and then transported.

He was severely injured. Life is life. Whether it's a police officer or a citizen of our city, they both need to be protected. Therefore, we have a great concern as to the conduct of the excessive use of force by these officers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, we are not dealing with race issue. We saw the tape. We saw that there were as many black officers kicking and punching and jumping as white. We are not questioning that. It is a fact we are concerned about the whole brutality. I don't care whether a black police officer stops my black son driving in Philadelphia, I expect a black officer as well as a white officer to treat my son fairly.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we mean by suggesting that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did not compare it, but we're talking about, what our concern is, is how people -- the viewers of the city of Philadelphia and this country have seen that tape and what comes to the back of their mind. And when that happens in the Philadelphia community and they see that, we do not want the Philadelphia community to get up in arms because, immediately, if you look at that film, then what comes to your mind is the whole Rodney King issue and police brutality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen in the New York, in the case of the Amadou Diallo case, we've seen police brutality across this nation. It doesn't seem like there is a decrease but an increase in police brutality, and it's ongoing. As a result, our concern here in Philadelphia is that if this excessive use of force is found to be such, then there should be the right judgment or right law applied in the case of these officers here.

Therefore, what we're saying is that because of this, then it is our desire and ambition to make sure that the laws apply in both, to the young man, Mr. Jones, and to the officers involved. So the Rodney King type is because, across America, we are seeing these kinds of incidents. These episodes do not bode well for justice being served where African-Americans are concerned, to the same extent that it would in any other ethnic or other community.

QUESTION: Sir, you keep using the term "excessive force." The police are not using the term "excessive force." They're using the -- they're saying, we have to see and investigate to find out what Mr. Jones was doing at the bottom of that pile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Historically, we have said -- historically, all of us have said -- and I'm sure you as well, have said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Here, the whole world has seen by way of this video what did transpire on that street. And therefore, that tells us without even any other second-guessing what, in fact, did take place. That was excessive force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And in fact, if he was shot four times or if he was shot five times, I'm sure that he was not -- they said he was shot in the stomach. I'm sure that he was not in any condition to do that much fighting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unless he was Superman, he was cowering in that kind of fumbling.

QUESTION: Reverend, he obviously led police on a high-speed chase driving a police car, what happened the other day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two questions, two questions, one at a time.

QUESTION: Obviously he led police on a high-speed chase driving a police car for some time wounded, so he did have the power to fight with police when he got out of the car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, driving and fighting are two different kinds of activities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I can say, that he must have been Superman...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He must have been...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to be shot four or five times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and then fight back that kind of pummeling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And even if he had gotten in the car and drove away...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody is passing judgment and saying that Mr. Jones is innocent or guilty because we're not -- this is not a panel of juries or judges that's going to find him guilty or innocent. Was his conduct questionable? Of course it was. Obviously he should not have been in either the alleged carjack car and he certainly shouldn't have been in a police car. But also that raises the question that what his mindset was. Why would anybody carjack a police car? Where do you think he was going? You guys, helicopters, can find a police car much easier than you can find a private car, so obviously his judgment was obviously impaired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once he was stopped, having driven the patrol car -- once he was stopped, then that raises the issue of what was the responsibility of those officers on the street once they stopped him? Was it then to drag him from the car and then commence to begin to brutalize him by stomping him and kicking him? Was that the action of sane -- it seemed like there was a madness there to reduce this man to the level of some animal. He's a human being. He has a family as well as the officers. All of us do.

All that we're saying is that from what we have seen via the video, that this young man was treated with abuse that ought not to have been meted on him by officers trained in apprehension, trained in using the law to subdue a suspected criminal, bring him down and then arrest him. If he was handcuffed, it was hardly likely that he was in any position, having been shot, handcuffed -- he was not in a position to put up a fight that would cause harm or danger to the officers once he had been handcuffed. "Excessive force," then, is the appropriate term. The video speaks for itself. We must not allow that to be just convoluted with any other issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And even if they subdued him, But they did not have to -- what we saw was them continuing to beat him, continuing to kick him. We saw a police officer jump over the hood of the automobile -- of the police car and jump on top of him. I believe that what they really should have done and was expected was to apprehend him: get him out, subdue him, put him in an ambulance or police car, whatever, and then take him. But to just continue to jump on him and to kick him is ridiculous.

And this is -- what we're concerned about also in Philadelphia, that we've had a number of cases in Philadelphia relating to...

KAGAN: We've been listening to members of the clergy of Philadelphia, and also to the head of the Philadelphia chapter of NAACP, these gentlemen just coming out of a meeting with the police commissioner of Philadelphia following the arrest yesterday of Thomas Jones. This arrest happened as a news helicopter hovered overhead and saw what many consider a very disturbing arrest with a number of police officers. It appears that they were kicking and attacking the suspect. There will be, according to the gentlemen we just heard from, a three-part investigation of the crime, an internal investigation of the shooting, since both the suspect and a police officer were shot, and also of the videotape that now has been shown across the country.

Also, these leaders, these community leaders, asking the black community of Philadelphia to remain calm while these investigations go on and the full story can come out.



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