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Officers in videotaped arrest plead innocent

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The police officer who was videotaped punching a handcuffed teenager pleaded innocent to assault Thursday and his attorney said the incident was "reasonable" use of force under the circumstances.

Inglewood Officer Jeremy Morse, 24, the lawman seen roughing up the teen, appeared briefly in court with Officer Bijan Darvish, who pleaded innocent to filing a false report. Bail was set at $25,000 each.

The videotape recorded July 6 by a bystander shows Morse lifting 16-year-old Donovan Jackson to his feet after being arrested and slamming him onto a squad car. Morse, who has a streak of blood next to his ear, then strikes Jackson on the face with his fist.

The incident has sparked federal and local investigations, and demonstrations in Inglewood, a southwestern suburb of Los Angeles.

Morse is charged with felony assault under the color of authority, which applies under state law to any person in law enforcement accused of using his or her position to unlawfully assault or beat someone. He has been suspended with pay.

Morse, a three-year police veteran, said in the police report that Jackson was arrested after he struggled with officers, scratched Morse above his ear and grabbed the officer's testicles after being handcuffed. Morse was in "extreme pain" and punched Jackson to make him let go, according to the report.

Morse's attorney, John D. Barnett, said what his client did was "reasonable" given the circumstances of the arrest.

Darvish, who wrote the police report, said he punched Jackson twice in the face before the teen was handcuffed because he believed the boy would hit him. He did not describe how Jackson was placed on the trunk of the car, saying only that officers "assisted Jackson to his feet and had him stand facing the police vehicle."

The arrest was filmed by Mitchell Crooks, 27, who was at a motel across the street from a gas station where Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies had stopped Jackson and his father, Coby Chavis, because the car they were in had expired vehicle tags. The Inglewood officers arrived to aid the deputies as Chavis was being questioned.

The boy's relatives have said he is developmentally disabled and does not quickly process commands.

Jackson has sued Inglewood, four of its officers, Los Angeles County and three sheriff's deputies. The federal lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and alleges misconduct and violations of his constitutional rights.

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