The New Orleans Police State
Lawyer:Tape Beating Suspect Wasn't Drunk
Lawyer: Taped Beating Subject Wasn't Drunk
Tuesday October 11, 2005 12:01 AM
AP Photo LAWH102
By RACHEL LA CORTE
Associated Press Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A 64-year-old man who was repeatedly punched in the head by police in an incident caught on videotape was not drunk, as police have alleged, and put up no resistance as he was being pummeled, his lawyer said Monday.
The man, a retired elementary school teacher, had returned to New Orleans only to check on property he owns in the storm-ravaged city, and was out looking to buy cigarettes when he was arrested Saturday night in the French Quarter, the lawyer and the man's father said.
Police have alleged that Robert Davis was publicly intoxicated.
A federal civil rights investigation was opened into the incident. Davis is black. The three city police officers seen on the tape are white. Police spokesman Marlon Defillo said race was not an issue.
Two city officers accused in the beating, and a third officer accused of grabbing and shoving an Associated Press Television News producer who helped document the confrontation, pleaded not guilty on Monday to battery charges.
After a hearing at which trial was set for Jan. 11, officers Lance Schilling, Robert Evangelist and S.M. Smith were released on bond. They left in cars without commenting.
The three were suspended without pay Sunday, Defillo said.
Police Superintendent Warren Riley said any misconduct would be dealt with swiftly. He noted the video showed ``a portion of that incident.''
``The actions that were observed on this video are certainly unacceptable by this department,'' Riley said.
Two other officials in the video appeared to be federal officers, according to police. Numerous agencies have sent officers to help with patrols in the aftermath of Katrina.
Stephen Kodak, an FBI spokesman in Washington, said none of its agents had been disciplined. He said the FBI was taking part in the Justice Department's civil rights probe.
The confrontation came as the New Orleans Police Department - long plagued by allegations of brutality and corruption - struggles with the aftermath of Katrina and the resignation last month of Police Superintendent Eddie Compass.
The APTN tape shows an officer hitting Davis at least four times in the head outside a bar. Davis twisted and flailed as he was dragged to the ground by several officers. Davis's lawyer said his client did not resist.
``I don't think that when a person is getting beat up there's a whole lot of thought. It's survival. You don't have a whole lot of time to think when you're being pummeled,'' Bruno said.
Davis was kneed and pushed to the sidewalk with blood streaming down his arm and into the gutter. The officers accused of striking Davis were identified as Schilling and Evangelist.
Bruno said his client suffered fractures to his cheek and eye socket, and scrapes and bruises, but was expected to recover.
He added that his client was a recovering narcotics abuser who hadn't had a drink or taken drugs in ``years and years. He was not taking anything.''
Davis is a retired teacher who has lived in New Orleans for about 30 years, said his father, David Davis, 87, of Columbus, Ohio.
The elder Davis said his son had gone to New Orleans over the weekend to visit his own house and a couple of others that he owns with his wife, also a retired teacher.
``They were there looking things over, trying to find out what happened to their property,'' David Davis said. ``That's probably the reason he was walking around the French Quarter.''
During the arrest, another officer, identified as Smith, ordered an APTN producer and a cameraman to stop recording. When Matthews held up his credentials, the officer grabbed the producer, leaned him backward over a car, jabbed him in the stomach and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade.
Smith is an eight-year veteran of the force, while Evangelist and Schilling have served three years each.
Police said Davis was booked on public intoxication, resisting arrest, battery on a police officer and public intimidation.
The head of the New Orleans police union said the officers told him they had acted appropriately.
``They feel they were justified in their actions and they were using the amount of force necessary to overcome the situation,'' Lt. David Benelli told WDSU in New Orleans.
Mike Silverman, AP's managing editor, said that ``the incidents taped by our cameraman are extremely troubling. We are heartened that the police department is taking them seriously and promising a thorough investigation.''
\"...if the American people ever find out what we have done, they will chase us down the streets and lynch us.” George H. W. Bush, Sr., 1992.