Archive for Friday, July 12, 2002

Lawyer: Officer justified in hitting teen

July 12, 2002


— A police officer who was videotaped slamming a handcuffed teenager's head onto a patrol car and punching him in the face was justified and "restrained" in his use of force, his lawyer said Thursday.

The attorney, John Barnett, said during an interview with CNN that the videotape of the arrest needed to be put into context.

"You cannot see what the subject is doing with his hands just prior to being hit in the face," Barnett said. "He took action which required that he be punched."

The Inglewood officer, Jeremy Morse, is on paid leave as federal, state and local agencies investigate Saturday night's arrest of 16-year-old Donovan Jackson and his father at a gas station.

The amateur cameraman who videotaped the arrest was taken into custody Thursday on outstanding warrants from northern California. Mitchell Crooks, 27, was arrested outside CNN's television studio in Hollywood.

Placer County Sheriff Edward Bonner said a warrant was issued for Crooks in 1999 when he didn't show up to begin a seven-month jail sentence for his conviction on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, hit-and-run, and petty theft.

The sheriff, in a statement, said Crooks stole two videocassette recorders from his mother's home and was involved in a traffic collision and fled the scene.

At a news conference Thursday, Inglewood Police Chief Ronald Banks said he was "quite concerned" after watching the videotape.

"It was not reflective of our normal practices and way of doing business," Banks said.

Mayor Roosevelt Dorn has said the officer should be fired and charged with assault. But the police chief said Thursday it was too soon to determine whether Morse should be fired.

Before his arrest, Crooks had been subpoenaed to appear before a county grand jury investigating the arrest.

Prosecutors do not normally disclose the existence of grand jury probes, but the investigation became public Wednesday when Crooks was doing a phone interview on a KFI-AM radio show. A Los Angeles County prosecutor called and told Crooks on the air he was being subpoenaed to appear Thursday.

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