Another investigation of LA police set off by videotape of officer using pepper spray
Tuesday, November 14th 2006, 2:56 pm
News On 6
LOS ANGELES (AP) The Police Department has investigated another arrest caught on videotape, this one showing an officer using pepper spray on a transient after he had been handcuffed and shoved into a patrol car, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
This latest video was shot by a resident of the Venice Beach section, who turned it over to the transient's attorney, who then provided it to the Times.
The incident occurred last year and the officer who used the pepper spray resigned before the investigation was completed. The newspaper said the officer told investigators he used the pepper spray after the transient spit on him once and tried to spit on him a second time.
The Times said the videotape spawned a lengthy investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. Police spokeswoman Mary Grady would not say if any officers were disciplined because of the probe; she said pepper spray may be used when a suspect is deemed to be combative.
The report of the pepper spray videotape comes on the heels of another tape that has been widely distributed on the YouTube video-sharing Web site, showing a police officer hitting a man in the face several times following a foot chase in Hollywood. Both the department and the FBI are investigating that incident.
In one of the first such cases, a videotape of the 1991 police beating of motorist Rodney King led to charges against four officers. The officers' acquittals touched off riots in Los Angeles.
There was no immediate explanation why the pepper spray tape surfaced so long after the incident.
After seeing the tape, the city attorney's office dropped charges it had filed against the transient, Benjamin Barker, of resisting arrest and committing battery on a police officer, the newspaper said. However, Barker has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of battery, stemming from the scuffle he had with a merchant that led to his arrest and the pepper spraying.
The Times said the videotape shows the officer pushing Barker into a patrol car as Barker asks why he is going to jail.
Then, from inside the patrol car, Barker is heard shouting ``I can't breathe! I can't breathe! Don't spray me!''
The tape shows the officer taking the pepper spray out of its holster and raising it toward Barker's face, but the actual spraying is obscured by shadows, according to the newspaper.
Barker's attorney, John Raphling, said Barker was whining and crying, ``but he is not being aggressive or threatening to them.''