Protests over skateboarder's beating
On Monday night the community of Venice Beach, Calif. and dozens of its skateboarders came together to rally in support of 20 year-old skateboarder Ronald Weekley, Jr. after cellphone video of four Los Angeles Police Department officers beating him was made public. A second rally is scheduled for Wednesday at the site of the beating.
Weekley, a sophomore at Xavier University in New Orleans, was first approached on Saturday evening by the officers, members of a special LAPD Violent Crime Task Force working in the Venice Beach area, for a traffic citation. He was allegedly seen skateboarding in traffic on Sunset Ave., near Sixth Street, in violation of the vehicle code.
It's unclear from the cellphone video what preceded the beating -- an officer's call to the LAPD radio dispatch identifies him as a "combative suspect" -- but at Tuesday's news conference Weekley said, "I was opening the door to my apartment when I was attacked from behind. They grabbed my hair and my back and tried to smash my face into the ground ... I started screaming and yelling because I thought I was going to die."
Weekley has retained attorney Benjamin Crump, best known for his high-profile civil rights and personal injury work including representing the family of Trayvon Martin. Crump is expected to file a civil rights lawsuit, alleging racial profiling in the assault, asking that all charges against Weekley be dropped, and demanding that the officers be held accountable to the full extent of the law.
"Why did they confront and assault this college student?" Crump asked, in a news conference on Tuesday, also alleging that Weekley was not read his Miranda rights until the day after the beating. "Was it because he was skating on the wrong side of the road, or was it because he was the wrong color?"
An LAPD spokeswoman told ESPN.com that Weekley "was arrested and booked for obstructing and resisting a police officer with force," noting that it was later revealed that "he had three outstanding warrants in the county-wide warrant system." Crump told reporters on Tuesday that the warrants are related to outstanding curfew and bicycle riding violations from when Weekley was 16 years old and a driving without a license infraction from when he was 18.
Following his arrest on Saturday, Weekley was treated at a nearby hospital for a concussion, broken nose, and fractured right cheekbone.
"One officer got a hold of my hands and legs and tied them together as another officer put his knees on my back, grabbed my hair with his left hand, and beat me with his right," Weekley said during Tuesday's press conference. The cellphone video shows him being punched in the face while forcibly restrained and sustaining repeated blows to his body while his family, neighbors, and other witnesses verbally protest the officers' actions.
"Where is it in the Los Angeles Police Department policy, in their regulations, that you are allowed to punch somebody in the face, especially when that person is handcuffed and subdued?" Crump asked, at Tuesday's press conference.
The department has launched both an internal affairs investigation and a Use of Force investigation, according to the LAPD spokeswoman.
"As a matter of standard procedure with all use-of-force incidents we are thoroughly investigating it and it will be reviewed at the highest levels of the department," she told ESPN.com. "Until we can actually conduct the investigation and look into the circumstances of the incident it would be inappropriate to discuss the details of the arrest, use of force, the contents of the video, or Mr. Weekley's news conference."