Rodney King files civil rights suit

By LINDA RAPATTONI  |  May 8, 1991
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LOS ANGELES -- Rodney King, whose videotaped beating by police touched off a nationwide furor over brutality and racism, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Wednesday against Police Chief Daryl Gates and his department.

The U.S. District Court suit filed by King's lawyer, Steven Lerman, asks for unspecified damages. Lerman earlier filed a claim against the city asking for $56 million, $1 million for each time King allegedly was struck by the officers.

'The beating of (King) was certainly accomplished by the individual officers present, but was also indicative of grossly inadequate training, constitutionally deficient hiring and disciplinary policies and a custom of racial bias prevalent in the Los Angeles Police Department,' the lawsuit said.

It said the incident 'was not an aberration but rather the latest in a long series of excessive use of force incidents involving local law enforcement.'

The lawsuit also alleged King, contrary to police and other eyewitness reports, 'complied with all of the officers' commands without objection.'

The complaint follows similar lawsuits filed earlier by two passengers in King's car, which was stopped by California Highway Patrol officers and police for allegedly speeding on the Foothill Freeway March 3.

The lawsuit names as defendants the City of Los Angeles, Gates, the Police Department, the Los Angeles Unified School District, Mayor Tom Bradley, 21 police officers, seven CHP officers and two school police officers.

The suit said King, 25, a black parolee from suburban Altadena, was 'brutally attacked by Los Angeles Police Officer Laurence Powell using a police baton, and then in turn by Los Angeles Police Sgt. Stacy Koon using a Taser stun gun, and thereafter by LAPD Officer Ted Briseno and Los Angeles Police Officer David Love.'

The officers 'taunted King with racial slurs and obscenities' and 'used out of policy head strokes with batons, boot stomping, kicking, punching and Taser gun shocks,' the lawsuit said.

The suit also said the defendants defamed King in the media as 'a PCP user and unemployed.'

It said the defendants 'foster an atmosphere of overt and tacit anti-black racism within the LAPD and particularly in the Foothill Division.'

Gates fired rookie officer Timothy Wind Tuesday and suspended Powell, Koon and Briseno without pay pending a Board of Rights hearing that could lead to their dismissal.

The three officers and sergeant also have been ordered to stand trial on criminal charges that include assault with great bodily injury.

The lawsuit alleges King was arrested without probable cause, subjected to excessive police force, false imprisonment and his rights for redress denied by a cover-up that involved concocted evidence.

The King beating was videotaped by a man who watched the incident from his home on the street where King's car was stopped. The incident has prompted a broad review by the Justice Department of the Los Angeles Police Department's practices.

King is recovering from severe injuries that included several skull and facial fractures that have apparently left him brain-damaged.

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