May 20, 2009 -- Five police officers in Birmingham, Ala., were fired Tuesday evening for beating an unconscious man as revealed in a video recently obtained by top city officials, according to reporting from the Birmingham News.
The video shows police officers violently beating an unconscious suspect after a 22-minute interstate chase. Captured from inside a Birmingham police car, the video reveals the subject, 38-year-old Anthony Warren, in a white Ford van being chased by several patrol cars.
The van is recklessly driving through traffic and swerving from lane to lane before it flips and a man is ejected from the vehicle. At that point, the officers descend on the unconscious body, using their fists and feet to strike Warren, who makes no attempt to defend himself.
Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper and Mayor Larry Langford held a press conference Wednesday to announce the police department's firings and added that further disciplinary measures will be taken against those who were aware of the beating, but failed to report it.
"The video is troubling because these are seasoned veteran officers," Chief Roper said Wednesday. "In fact, we've terminated over 50 years of combined service due to 10 seconds of injustice."
In addition to the officers' termination, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation is looking into possible criminal charges. .
"There are no winners in the situation," the chief said. "We have five officers who lost their jobs and a citizen who suffered unnecessarily."
The incident occurred Jan. 23, 2008, though it was not until this week that the public was made aware of the video. Allegedly, the tape was seen by many officers over the last year, but authorities say that it was not until the district attorney's office was made aware of the tape just months ago, that senior city and police officials saw the beating on tape.
Senior reporter for the Birmingham News Carol Robinson told ABC News that the story "unfolded very quickly" once the news began to leak out.
"We found out about it late last week but it was very sketchy information. On Monday, we had city officials talking to one of our other reporters and myself. We were tipped off that this video existed and began reporting from there," said Robinson on Wednesday.
Was the Tape Part of a Cover-Up?
Warren's attorney, Wendy Crew, filed a claim with the city in March citing that the defendant suffered multiple injuries including a concussion, skull fracture and internal bleeding, as reported by the Birmingham News.
Warren, convicted in the past of various felonies and who was charged with attempted murder due to the car chase, was under the impression that all of his injuries were a result of the car wreck until the tape came to light during his trial in March.
His attorney's claim have listed damages in "excess of $100,000" and asserted that the police department tampered with justice, according to the Birmingham News.
"I think in the coming days the talk is going to change from the video itself to how did it take a year and a half for it to surface?" said Robinson. "At what level was there a cover up and was that what it was? Was there a case of confusion or what is deliberate?"
Describing the police chief as a "by the book guy," Robinson added that both the mayor and chief have been "very interested in getting all of the information out," and "adamant that all policies regarding reporting all of this are being revised."
Law enforcement and city officials are continuing to review the incident.