NEW ORLEANS – Robert Davis stood at the corner of Bourbon and Conti streets in the French Quarter and stared in disbelief at the brown stain on the sidewalk.
"Is that my blood? It must be," said the 64-year-old retired elementary schoolteacher, who was arrested and repeatedly punched by police over the weekend. "I didn't know I was bleeding that bad."
The confrontation, captured on videotape and broadcast across the country, has put another unwanted spotlight on the beleaguered, exhausted police force in this storm-struck city.
Three officers pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the incident and the U.S. Justice Department (search) opened a civil rights investigation.
Davis disputed contentions by police that he had been drinking.
"I haven't had a drink in 25 years," Davis said Monday. "I didn't do anything. I was going to get a pack of cigarettes and taking my evening constitutional."
The two city police officers accused in the beating, and a third accused of grabbing and shoving an Associated Press Television News (search) producer who helped capture the encounter on tape, pleaded not guilty to battery charges and were released Monday.
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 without commenting. They were suspended without pay Sunday.
Police Superintendent Warren Riley (search) said any misconduct found in an investigation 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.
Davis is black; the three city police officers seen on the tape are white. But Davis and police officials have said they don't believe race was a factor.
Two other officials in the video appeared to be federal officers, according to police. Numerous agencies have sent officers to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and police spokesman Marlon Defillo said it would be up to their commanders to decide if they would face charges.
Davis had stitches under his swollen left eye, a bandage around a finger and complained of aches in his left shoulder and soreness in his back. His lawyer said he suffered fractures to his cheek and eye socket.
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 (search).
Davis said the confrontation began after he had approached a mounted police officer Saturday to ask about curfews in the city when another officer interrupted.
"This other guy interfered and I said he shouldn't," Davis said. "I started to cross the street and — bam — I got it. ... All I know is this guy attacked me and said, 'I will kick your ass,' and they proceeded to do it."
The APTN tape shows an officer hitting Davis at least four times in the head. Davis appeared to resist, twisting and flailing as he was dragged to the ground by four officers. Davis' lawyer, Joseph Bruno, said his client did not resist police.
Another officer also kneed Davis and punched him twice. Davis was 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.
During the arrest, another officer, identified as Smith, ordered an APTN producer and cameraman to stop recording. When producer Rich Matthews held up his credentials, the officer grabbed him, leaned him backward over a car, jabbed him in the stomach and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade.
Davis had returned to New Orleans over the weekend from Atlanta to inspect six properties owned by members of his family, intending to clean them up or figure out how to rebuild them. He's no longer sure he'll return permanently to the city he's called home for 28 years.
"That's up in the air. The chaos that's here — I don't know," he said.