Wednesday, May 07, 2008

TV video shows Philly officers kicking, hitting 3 suspects

May 6 08:09 PM US/Eastern
Associated Press Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A half-dozen police officers kicked and beat three men pulled from a car during a traffic stop as a TV helicopter taped the confrontation.
The video, shot by WTXF-TV, shows three police cars stopping a car Monday, two days after a city officer was shot to death responding to a bank robbery.

The tape shows about a dozen officers gathering around the vehicle. About a half-dozen officers hold two of the men on the ground. Both are kicked repeatedly, while one is seen being punched; one also appears to be struck with a baton.

The third man is also kicked and ends up on the ground.

"On the surface it certainly does not look good in terms of the amount of force that was used," Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said. "But we don't want to rush to judgment."

The officers were responding to a report of a shooting nearby, police said. It was not immediately clear what preceded the confrontation.

Ramsey said Philadelphia officers have been on edge since Saturday, when Officer Stephen Liczbinski was fatally shot with an assault rifle after a robbery.

Police fatally shot one of the robbery suspects; another was arrested Sunday and a third man is still being sought.

"There is also a lot of heightened emotions since Sgt. Liczbinski was murdered on the streets just Saturday," Ramsey said.

Liczbinski was the third officer slain on duty in the city in the last two years.

Attorney D. Scott Perrine, who represents the three men seen in the video, said that as terrible as the officer's death was, it does not excuse such actions by police.

"We don't take into consideration the emotions of police officers when it comes to the discharge of their duties. ... Your emotional state, being tired, doesn't justify what's on that video," Perrine said.

He said one of his clients suffered a welt on his head the size of a baseball and one of his legs was seriously injured; he didn't know the extent of any injuries on the other two men.

Perrine also said he did not know what preceded the traffic stop but called the actions seen on the tape unjustified.

"It clearly shows a lack of any reasonable investigation before these police yank these individuals out of the car and take turns delivering blows," he said. "This is a time for a thorough investigation to see what it is that happened here."

Perrine said that police told him all three men would be charged with aggravated assault.

Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, did not immediately return a call for comment from The Associated Press.

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