LOS ANGELES -- Four Los Angeles police officers, including a sergeant, were arrested Friday on felony assault charges for savagely clubbing and kicking a motorist in a videotaped incident that has created a national furor.
The county grand jury viewed the tape during three days of secret hearings and deliberations, returning indictments late Thursday against three officers who took part in the beating of Rodney Glen King and their sergeant who stood by and watched the March 3 pummeling along a San Fernando Valley street.
The indictments were announced by Los Angeles County District Attorney Ira Reiner, who called the episode 'a terrible moment and time for serious reflection.'
Officers Ted Briseno, 38, Laurence Powell, 28, Timothy Wind, 30, and Sgt. Stacey Koon, 40, were arrested Friday and were arraigned on the charges before Superior Court Judge Gary Klausner. They delayed entering pleas until March 22.
At least one of the defendant's lawyers indicated he may challenge Proposition 115, passed by voters, which precludes a preliminary hearing when there is a grand jury indictment.
Deputy District Attorney Terry White, who is prosecuting the case, said he expects a judge will deny such a challenge to allow the case to proceed quickly to trial.
Klausner complied with White's request to set bail at $5,000 for Briseno and $30,000 for each of the other officers. All officers later posted bail.
All of the officers were charged with one felony count of of assault with a deadly weapon by force likely to produce bodily injury and with violating a law that makes it a felony for an officer to unnecessarily assault or beat anyone. Special allegations were filed that the assault occurred under color of authority.
In addition, Koon, Powell and Wind are charged with a special allegation of inflicting great bodily injury on King.
The five-count indictment also separately charged Koon and Powell with filing false police reports. Koon is additionally charged with being an accessory after the fact to assault with a deadly weapon.
If convicted, Koon and Powell could be sentenced to up to seven years and eight months in state prison. Wind faces a maximum of seven years in prison, while Briseno faces a possible four-year sentence.
The officers also face suspension from duty and 13 of the officers present during the beating face separate Police Department disciplinary hearings. Two of the officers were school police.
Reiner said the grand jury would continue to hear evidence against the other officers next week.
King, a black 25-year-old unemployed construction worker, allegedly was detected by the California Highway Patrol speeding at more than 100 mph along the Foothill Freeway late on a Sunday night. When he exited, several Los Angeles police cars pulled his Hyundai sedan over.
King was ordered out, then struck with nightsticks more than 50 times and kicked repeatedly in the back and head. He also was shot with darts from an electronic stun gun.
Prosecutor White said Powell and Wind could be seen on videotape wielding batons. Briseno, White said, did not use a baton, but he added that the indictment also alleges feet were used in the assault.
King sustained a broken ankle and his doctor said he suffered severe head injuries, a broken eye socket and possible permanent eye and brain damage.
An amateur cameraman standing on a dark balcony across the street taped the beating and arrest. He sold the tape to television news organizations, which broadcast it worldwide, igniting nearly universal outrage, as well as calls from the Los Angeles black community for the resignation or firing of Police Chief Daryl Gates.
Gates quickly denounced the beating, which he characterized as an 'aberration.' He has vowed to stay on the job in the face of an outcry that gained momentum daily.
Several community activists announced Friday their plan to mount a campaign to recall the embattled chief under a little-known provision in the City Charter. The deadline for adding a referendum to the city's June ballot has passed, but Gates' future could be put to voters in June 1992.
Meanwhile, Mayor Tom Bradley said he personally called Gates Friday morning to 'deny categorically' media reports that Bradley's chief of staff has been orchestrating Gates' ouster from behind the scenes at the behest of the mayor.
Bradley also denied that he authorized anyone on his staff 'to engage in any similar kind of conduct.' The Los Angeles Times reported Bradley's office has been trying to exert enough political and public pressure on Gates to force him to step down from the post he has held since 1978.
Critics insist the videotape documented police abuse that is all too common against minorities in the nation's second-largest city.
The episode also prodded U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh to order a review of police brutality cases nationwide.