Related topics

Defense Begins in Brutality Trial of Four Police Officers

March 18, 1992

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) _ A police officer on trial in the Rodney King beating told a colleague at the scene: ‴I was scared ... I thought I was going to have to shoot him,‴ a bystander officer testified Wednesday.

A paramedic, also called to testify as the defense opened, described King as combative, defiantly spitting blood at those in the ambulance. Kathleen Bosak called King’s injuries ″very minor.″

Los Angeles police Officer Susan Clemmer said Officer Laurence Powell was breathless when she arrived moments after the black motorist was beaten. Of the four white officers on trial, Powell is accused of inflicting the most blows.

Asked to relate Powell’s remarks, she said she wasn’t sure if he was talking to her or another policeman.

″He said, ’I was scared. The guy threw me off his back. I thought I was going to have to shoot him.‴

On questioning by Powell’s attorney, Michael Stone, she said Powell was breathless and gasping for air.

″What did you observe about his demeanor?″ asked Stone.

″Just in the way he made the statement,″ she said. ″It was said very quick and he kept walking around.″

Paramedic Bosak said King’s injuries did not indicate he was struck by officers’ batons.

″It looked like he was in some kind of ground confrontation,″ Ms. Bosak said of King’s injuries.

″There was dirt on his face and blood ... like he was rolling around in the dirt. It didn’t look like anyone struck on him. It just looked like a simple fall on the ground.″

King was pulled over after a high speed chase March 3, 1991, in a Los Angeles suburb and was arrested in a violent scene videotaped by a neighborhood resident. Its broadcast sparked national outrage over police brutality and heightened racial tensions in Los Angeles.

Powell, 29, Sgt. Stacey Koon, 41, and Officers Timothy Wind, 31 and Theodore Briseno, 39, are charged with assault.

Ms. Clemmer, the first bystander officer called as the defense opened, said King was ″hogtied″ when she saw him and he was laughing and uttering an obscenity at officers.

The two women testified that in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, King was told to stop spitting blood.

″He kept blowing or spitting blood on my shoes,″ Ms. Clemmer said. ″I asked him to stop and turn his head in the other direction. ... He just laughed and continued.″

Asked if she heard King say anything to Koon at the hospital, she replied, ″He looked at Sergeant Koon and he says, ‘I love you,’ and he was laughing and he smiled.″

On cross-examination, Deputy District Attorney Terry White asked the paramedic to describe King’s violent behavior.

″You put him in the ambulance hogtied?″ asked White.

″Correct,″ said the witness.

″He was still in an uncomfortable position?″ he asked.

″Yes,″ said the witness.

″And when you took him out of that uncomfortable position, he was cooperative?″

″To a certain extent, yes,″ she replied.

The prosecution, which presented 21 witnesses in nine days of testimony, rested its case Tuesday without calling King to testify.

Update hourly