P H I L A D E L P H I A, July 13, 2000 -- Philadelphia police were caught on videotape today pulling a shooting suspect out of a suspected stolen police cruiser and beating him on the street.
The video shows Philadelphia police beating and kicking the suspect, who was identified as Thomas Jones, 30. Minutes earlier, Jones and the police had been engaged in a wild shootout on the streets of north Philadelphia.
“Clearly, the activity on the tape is troubling,” said Philadelphia Mayor John Street at a press conference late Wednesday night. “We have unanswered concerns.”
Both Mayor Street and Philadelphia Police Chief John F. Timoney promised a fair and thorough investigation into the incident, which critically injured the suspect and in which three police officers were also hurt.
Street, who was in Baltimore for the convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, returned to Philadelphia because of the incident, spokeswoman Luz Cardenas said.
Jones’ fiancee, Victoria Bryant, told the Philadelphia Daily News that his body was still shaking — hours after the beating. “It’s like he thinks somebody is trying to hit him,” said Bryant after a hospital visit.
In an interview with the Daily News, Bryant’s mother, Peaches Wright, compared Jones’ beating to the 1991 battering of Los Angeles motorist Rodney
King by white police officers. The King incident touched off race riots.
“What you see is Rodney King in two different colors,” she told the Daily News.
Wednesday’s incident, Wright said, had both white and black officers beating on the suspect.
The incident began at 12:40 Wednesday afternoon after police noticed the suspect driving erratically and attempted to pull him over. The officers identified the car as having been reported stolen July 1 in a carjacking, according to Timoney. Jones is a suspect in the carjacking.
Police cornered the suspect, a gun battle ensued and 45 shots were fired. The suspect was wounded five times and then made off with another car, a police cruiser, before coming to a stop several blocks away.
Two internal affairs investigations — one into the shootout between Jones and the cops, and the other into the videotaped beating — have already begun, Timoney said. He cautioned reporters at the press conference that it would take time to uncover all the details of the incident. “This is not going to be overnight,” Timoney said. “This is not even going to be two weeks. This is going to take a while.”
Another investigation was being conducted into the alleged crimes, as well, as is standard police procedure.
Kicking and Beating ABCNEWS affiliate WPVI captured the dramatic footage of the incident.
Some 40 police cars made their way up North Broad Street, a major Philadelphia thoroughfare, and other city streets in pursuit.
Police finally stopped the stolen cruiser, and surrounded it with their guns drawn.
“There was about 100 police cars come flying down the street and they grab the guy right away,” said Stan Kaplan, who witnessed the action.
As backup arrives, a dozen officers are seen on the video opening the car door, then dragging the suspect out, and forcing him to the ground.
For about 35 seconds they can be clearly seen beating and kicking the suspect on the ground, with more officers watching. Other officers appear to be trying to restrain their colleagues, pulling them by the arms.
Because the video was shot from a helicopter, what is harder to see is what police say was going on at the bottom of the pile of bodies: a man struggling, resisting arrest, trying to reach for an officer’s gun and biting down on an officer’s hand.
The suspect was then handcuffed and driven away in a police van, bleeding, apparently from bullet wounds.
It is not clear whether police knew a helicopter was overhead, recording the scene.
By just after midnight this morning, the scene of the apparent beating was quiet, with no one there.
Hospitalized The suspect, Jones, is in guarded condition at Temple University Hospital and is beginning to stabilize, officials said. He had surgery Wednesday night, with gunshot wounds to the abdomen and arms, according to a hospital spokesperson. Three officers were also taken to a hospital — one with a thumb injury. Police believe the wound is a result of a shot fired by the suspect.
Officer Michael Livewell, 24, who has been on the force for four years and is assigned to track down felony cases, was shot in the thumb and was in fair condition at Hahnemann University Hospital, police said. Another officer, Lex Henninger, 52, was being treated for a bite wound inflicted by the suspect, police said. The wound of the third officer the mayor mentioned was not disclosed.
At least 19 officers were involved in the arrest.
Timoney says he needs to examine the videotape before reaching any conclusions, and appealed for people to withhold judgement until after an internal police investigation.
“Indications are he flees from the scene. Indications are he fights police officers. He steals a police car,” Timoney said.
“The guy obviously doesn’t want to get arrested. When someone doesn’t want to get arrested, there really isn’t a very easy way of doing it, and so, let’s not jump to any conclusions. Let’s wait and see what happens,” he said.
Timoney said officers were canvassing for witnesses.
In the past, Timoney has publicly warned officers to intervene if they see a fellow officer use excessive force.
ABCNEWS’ John Miller, ABC affiliate WPVI in Philadelphia and The Associated Press contributed to this report.