Philiadelphia Police Beat Suspect

ByBryan Robinson

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 policebeating and kicking the suspect, who was identified as Thomas Jones, 30.Minutes earlier, Jones and the police had been engaged in a wild shootouton the streets of north Philadelphia.

“Clearly, the activity on the tape is troubling,” saidPhiladelphia 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 afair and thorough investigation into the incident, which criticallyinjured the suspect and in which three police officers were also hurt.

Street, who was in Baltimore for the convention ofthe National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, returned to Philadelphia because of the incident, spokeswoman LuzCardenas 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 thesuspect driving erratically and attempted to pull him over. The officersidentified the car as having been reported stolen July 1 in a carjacking,according to Timoney. Jones is a suspect in thecarjacking.

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, apolice cruiser, before coming to a stop several blocksaway.

Two internal affairs investigations — one into the shootout betweenJones and the cops, and the other into the videotaped beating — havealready begun, Timoney said. He cautioned reporters at the pressconference that it would take time to uncover all the details of theincident. “This is not going to be overnight,” Timoney said.“This is not even going to be two weeks. This is going to take awhile.”

Another investigation was being conducted into the alleged crimes, aswell, as is standard police procedure.

Kickingand BeatingABCNEWS affiliate WPVI captured the dramatic footage of theincident.

Some 40 police cars made their way up North Broad Street, a majorPhiladelphia thoroughfare, and other city streets inpursuit.

Police finally stopped the stolen cruiser, and surrounded it with theirgunsdrawn.

“There was about 100 police cars comeflying down the street and they grab the guy right away,” said StanKaplan, who witnessed the action.

As backup arrives, a dozen officers are seen on the video opening the cardoor, then dragging the suspect out, and forcing him to theground.

For about 35 seconds they can be clearly seen beating and kicking thesuspect on the ground, with more officers watching. Other officers appeartobe trying to restrain their colleagues, pulling them by the arms.

Because the video was shot from a helicopter, what is harder to see iswhat police say was going on at the bottom of the pile of bodies: a manstruggling, resisting arrest, trying to reach for an officer’s gunand 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, recordingthe scene.

By just after midnight this morning, the scene of the apparentbeating was quiet, with no one there.

HospitalizedThe suspect, Jones, is in guarded condition at Temple University Hospital and is beginning to stabilize, officials said. He had surgery Wednesdaynight, with gunshot wounds to the abdomenand arms, according to a hospital spokesperson. Three officers were alsotaken to a hospital — one with a thumb injury. Police believe thewound is a result of a shot fired by thesuspect.

Officer Michael Livewell, 24, who has been on theforce for four years and is assigned to track down felony cases, was shotin the thumb and was in fair condition at Hahnemann University Hospital, policesaid. Another officer, Lex Henninger, 52, was being treatedfor a bite wound inflicted by the suspect, policesaid. The wound of the third officer the mayor mentioned was notdisclosed.

At least 19 officers were involved in thearrest.

Timoney says he needs to examine the videotape before reaching anyconclusions, and appealed for people to withhold judgement until after aninternal police investigation.

“Indications are he flees from the scene. Indications are he fightspolice officers. He steals a police car,” Timoney said.

“The guy obviously doesn’t want to get arrested. Whensomeone doesn’t want to get arrested, there really isn’t avery easy way of doing it, and so, let’s not jump to anyconclusions. 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 seea fellow officer use excessive force.

ABCNEWS’ John Miller, ABC affiliate WPVI in Philadelphia andThe Associated Press contributed to this report.

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