Police Chief Says Texas Officer May Face Charges in Videotaped Beating
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ A police officer who was videotaped beating a car theft suspect who kicked out the window of his patrol car will be charged with criminal assault, the city’s police chief said.
″He hit me so many times, I passed out,″ the victim, Ernest Anderson, said from jail. Police said Anderson, 21, was handcuffed during the beating by Officer E.J. Parnell.
The officer could be charged as early as today, Police Chief Thomas Windham told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The videotape shows Parnell hitting Anderson 28 times with his baton, using a two-handed, over-the-head swing that Windham said wasn’t necessary.
An Explorer Scout, who was riding in Parnell’s car, is seen helping restrain Anderson. The Explorer Scout program allows students an inside look at various careers.
″When a police officer utilizes any amount of force that is not necessary, then there is a great likelihood that the officer has crossed over into the criminal aspect,″ Windham said Thursday.
″When I viewed the tape, initially ... it appeared that no matter what, the officer was striking too many times,″ Windham said. ″Since then, after viewing an enhanced version of the tape and gaining other information from witnesses, it appears that the officer did use excessive force.″
Bob Hasty, attorney for the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, which represents police officers, said Windham’s assessment was premature.
″I’m surprised and appalled at some of the comments that the chief has made,″ said Hasty, who is representing Parnell. ″There are definitely two sides to this ... the suspect was pretty riled up.″
Parnell, 32, a three-year veteran of the force, was suspended with pay and ordered to remain at home during working hours. His telephone number is unlisted and he could not be reached for comment Thursday.
A woman recorded the beating Wednesday from a nearby yard. It was broadcast by Fort Worth’s KXAS-TV.
The broadcast brought to mind the March 3 beating of a black motorist by a group of white Los Angeles police officers. The Rodney King beating, which was also videotaped by a bystander, prompted a federal investigation into police brutality cases nationwide.
Four Los Angeles officers have pleaded innocent to felony assault charges in the King case.
In the Fort Worth incident, both Anderson and Parnell are black.
Police say Anderson, who had been arrested for investigation of car theft, had kicked out the rear window of Parnell’s squad car and tried to jump out as the officer drove along Interstate 30.
Authorities said Parnell then pulled the car to the shoulder, got out and beat Anderson, who initially appears on the tape to be trying to get out of the vehicle.
Police say Anderson had threatened to kill himself before breaking the window.
Anderson told KXAS-TV that he only wanted his handcuffs loosened.
″I can’t understand why he was hitting me, because I couldn’t struggle,″ he said Thursday. ″He hit me so many times I passed out.″
He was treated in the emergency room at John Peter Smith Hospital before being jailed. A police report listed his injuries as cuts to the head, left arm, chest, back and right leg. Hospital spokesman Judge Legg said he couldn’t give out medical information without the patient’s consent.
Anderson, charged with evading arrest, resisting arrest, criminal mischief and theft of stolen property, remained jailed Thursday after a county magistrate set bond at $2,500. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
An internal police investigation is under way. Investigators planned to question the Explorer Scout, whose name was not released, said police spokesman Lt. Alvin Allcon.
The beating happened during rush hour and was witnessed by numerous motorists, several of whom filed complaints charging excessive force, Allcon said.
But at least one witness defended Parnell.
″The officer had to restrain him somehow ... he had to work him over,″ said Nick Marr, who saw part of the beating.
Mayor Kay Granger said she supports Windham’s handling of the incident, but a city councilman has called for a review of police training procedures.