Officer suspended after videotaped beating
INGLEWOOD, California (CNN) -- A teen-ager whose beating by Inglewood police was videotaped said Monday he had done nothing to provoke the attack, which his father said was racially motivated.
Sixteen-year-old Donovan Chavis, who is African American, told CNN's Connie Chung that his father had driven them to a gas station Saturday.
After Donovan paid for the gas and bought a package of potato chips, he said, he returned to the car and found police questioning his father, Koby Chavis, whose license plate had expired.
In addition, Koby Chavis said he told police his license had been suspended.
The teen said a police officer then turned his attention to him. "He said, 'Put those chips on the car and step back from the car.' " Donovan said he did just that.
"What they told him to do, he did it," concurred his father.
But police say Donovan lunged at an officer, a claim his father disputes.
Donovan was handcuffed, beaten and dragged on the ground by an 18-inch chain around his neck, which snapped, family lawyer Joe Hopkins told CNN.
A guest at a hotel across the street said he saw a crowd gathering around the melee, grabbed his video camera and began taping. "I saw them pick up the guy like he was a crash test dummy or something," Mitchell Crooks told CNN.
"The officer carried him over to the car and then slammed him, it looked like with all of his force, everything he had, and just slammed him down on the car.
"Then, the guy started looking up, the kid started looking up. He had a complete dazed look on his face, like -- 'What's going on? What's happening?'
"I think he had been beaten pretty bad before that. And then, just out of the blue, the cop just punched him right in the face. It was quite awful. I was just really disturbed by it."
Afterward, the police put the teen-ager into the police car and took him to a hospital.
Donovan Chavis, left, and father Koby Chavis.
At that point, "I noticed that they had noticed me filming it," Crooks said. Afraid the police would attempt to seize the tapes, he transferred them to others, he said.
Soon after, seven officers knocked on his door and asked him questions but apparently did not know it was he who had taped the incident, he said.
"I went into my room, changed clothes, grabbed a beer and went to the pool and acted like I didn't know what was going on at all," he said.
Asked if he thought the attack was racially motivated, Donovan's father said, "Yes, I do."
Said Hopkins: "One of the officers said to him, 'You're going to jail, nigger. We've already beat your son's ass and now we're sending you to jail. I'm going home and if I see you on the street, I'm going to send you to jail.' "
One of the officers appears to be black; the others white. Hopkins added, "There was no reason to approach them, other than their being in that location and being black."
Donovan is charged with resisting arrest and battery, and his father is charged with driving with a suspended license.
The father said he too was beaten, though that was not videotaped. "They grabbed me by my neck, slung me down on the ground, put their knee on my back and placed me inside the car."
His back was injured, he said.
But his son suffered the brunt of the blows, he added, injuring his eyes, nose, ear, and doing more subtle damage, too, he said.
"At nighttime, he's scared to go to sleep by himself at night. Wakes up screaming, scared of police. Scared to go outside by himself. He's frightened."
Officer Jeremy Morse, a three-year veteran, has been suspended with pay, said Lt. Eve Irvine of the Inglewood Police Department. "What occurred in the video is extremely disturbing," she said. "The incident is being taken very seriously."
The three other officers at the gas station were not relieved of duty.
An internal affairs investigation has been initiated, Irvine added.
But Hopkins is not waiting for the internal investigation. "We intend to seek justice in the courts," he said.
Family members said Donovan -- who attends special education classes -- has a hearing problem and a speech impediment and is sometimes slow to react, but that he would have been unlikely to provoke police.
"Donovan has always been a subdued child," said Talibah Shakir, his cousin. "He is quiet and doesn't bother anyone."
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