Donovan Jackson

Donovan JacksonLA police officer beat 16 year old youth

Compiled from various sources
originally published 30th June 2007

News updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item

A white Inglewood police officer who was videotaped punching a handcuffed black teenager, Donovan Jackson, pleaded not guilty to assault. A second officer pleaded not guilty to filing a false report. Officer Jeremy Morse, seen roughing up the young man in a video recording, appeared briefly in court with Officer Bijan Darvish.

The officers were indicted by the county grand jury on felony charges in the videotaped beating of the victim who was handcuffed, then slammed onto the trunk of a patrol car and punched in the face.

Officer Jeremy Morse, who can be seen on the videotape striking the youth, was charged with assault under the ‘color of authority’ Act; Officer Bijan Darvish, his partner, was charged with filing a false police report. County prosecutors took the case to the grand jury within days of the videotape’s first airing. They handed up the indictments to Supervising Criminal Judge Dan Oki.

Subsequently, there was a six-day inquiry into the case. The grand jury heard testimony from 11 witnesses. They included Donovan Jackson and his father, Coby Chavis; the two county sheriff’s deputies involved, Carlos Lopez and Daniel Leon; as well as other Inglewood police officers. Morse did not testify.

The incident began when the two sheriff’s deputies approached a gas station to investigate expired registration tags on Donovan’s car, according to accounts provided by the Sheriff’s Department, Inglewood police and others. It was claimed that Donovan came out of the station market and ignored orders by one of the deputies.

Patrolling Inglewood police arrived to assist, and a struggle ensued. Morse claimed that he saw Jackson hit at a deputy, so they grabbed his arms and pulled him to the ground before being handcuffed.

This conflicted with the video evidence. An unemployed disc jockey, Mitchell Crooks, had videotaped the encounter. When the videotape of the incident begins, the victim was seen lying on the pavement, already in handcuffs. At that point, Morse lifts Jackson off the ground and slams him into the police car. Morse is then seen punching the Donovan in the face. The officer claimed that this was a response to Jackson grabbing his testicles.

The police report does not describe the manner in which the Donovan was placed on the trunk of the car. It says that officers “assisted Jackson to his feet and had him stand facing the police vehicle.”

As Jackson was splayed across the trunk of the car with his hands behind his back, his head moved. It was then that Morse punched him in the face. On the tape, another Inglewood officer, appears to come between the victim and Morse. They separate, and Jackson is then led to a patrol car.

Donovan’s treatment attracted nationwide attention, drawing comparisons to the 1991 beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers. That case went to trial in state court, and after the officers involved were acquitted, Los Angeles was plunged into riots that ended with dozens dead and more than $1 billion in property damage.

Inglewood City Administrator Joseph T. Rouzan said: “We’ve just about completed the interviews of everyone except Mr. Morse. “If you go by information you have here, you have a very serious offence that requires very serious consideration based on what is known,”

Rouzan said there are few if any circumstances that justify an officer striking a suspect in custody. In Inglewood, the maximum suspension for an officer is 30 days; any offence more serious than that results in dismissal.

Morse, who had three years’ experience with the Inglewood Police Department, had several other complaints made against him. Nevertheless he was described by some in the department as a dedicated officer, firmly committed to his job.

A State Assembly Speaker soon after announced the creation of a commission that would examine police departments’ use of force in light of the Inglewood incident. The new Speaker’s Commission on Police Conduct would examine use-of-force issues in the hope of improving safety and protecting the civil rights of the arrested.

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Follow-up News:

The policemen disciplined for this beating awarded $2.4m
20th January 2005

No verdict against policeman filmed beating teen
30th July 2003

Protests over US police beating
13th July 2002

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