Officers Cleared in Taped Beating

Suspects outraged by Grand Jury ruling

Philadelphia police officers involved in the videotaped beating of three suspects after a car chase won't be charged with crimes, according to a grand jury that found no excessive use of force.

The widely seen news footage of the violent police stop in May 2008 does not tell the whole story, District Attorney Lynne Abraham said Thursday.

Officers considered the shooting suspects armed and dangerous, and in keeping with department policy did not beat or kick them once they were handcuffed, she said.

The suspects -- Pete Hopkins, Dwayne Dyches and Brian Hall -- have since been acquitted of the triple shooting earlier that night for which police had pursued them.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey fired four officers and disciplined others after analyzing tape of the arrest, which he said gave the department "a black eye."

The aerial footage shows a swarm of officers descending on the car after a 2 1/2-mile chase, then smashing a window, and pulling the men out to beat and kick them, in at least one case with a police baton.

"We found that the design of the force applied by the police was helpful rather than hurtful; the kicks and blows, in other words, were aimed not to inflict injury but to facilitate quick and safe arrests," the grand jury said in the report, which followed a 14-month investigation.

All three suspects were black, but so were the majority of the 23 people on the grand jury, Abraham said. Most of the police on the scene were white.

"They (the black majority on the jury) couldn't have been outvoted, if they had decided the officers acted in a criminal way," Abraham said.

"It's important not to form conclusions based on a mere film, without context," she said. "We think that good people will understand what police did and why."

Critics of the stop have suggested that police closing in on the suspects' car thought it contained a fugitive wanted in that week's slaying of a police sergeant.

Abraham did not say whether she thought the fired officers should be returned to the force, leaving that to the police department. Ramsey testified before the grand jury, as did the officers and the three suspects, she said.

In a brief statement, Ramsey said he respects Abraham's decision but called it separate from the police disciplinary process. "I have 40 years of law enforcement experience, I kinda know what I'm looking at and in my opinion, all the actions were not justified," Ramsey said. "I took the action that I felt was appropriate."

The suspects voiced outrage over Thursday's announcement. At their recent attempted-murder trial, the videotaped beating was "the elephant in the room," as the prosecutor put it. Jurors viewed it several times.

"Suppose I was to pull up on you and I beat you like that, I'm gonna have charges filed against me -- aggrivated assault, simple assault," Dyches said following the announcement.

"You're supposed to feel safe around police officers," said Hopkins. "I felt as though they were going to take my life that night."

He plans to sue the city, and his co-defendants are also considering lawsuits. John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police local, did not immediately return a message Thursday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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