PHILADELPHIA – A half-dozen police officers kicked and beat three suspects pulled from a car during a traffic stop as a TV helicopter taped the confrontation, and the city's police commissioner said "it certainly does not look good."
The video, shot by WTXF-TV, shows three police cars stopping a car on a city street on Monday, two days after a city officer responding to a bank robbery was fatally shot.
The tape shows about a dozen officers gathering around the vehicle and pulling three men out. About a half-dozen officers hold two of the men on the ground. Both are kicked repeatedly, while one is seen being punched; one also appears to be struck with a baton.
The third man is also kicked and ends up on the ground.
"On the surface it certainly does not look good in terms of the amount of force that was used," Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said. "But we don't want to rush to judgment."
The officers were responding to a report of a shooting nearby, police said.
Ramsey said Philadelphia officers have been on edge since Saturday, when Officer Stephen Liczbinski was fatally shot with an assault rifle after a robbery in the city's Port Richmond section. One of the robbery suspects was fatally shot by police, another was arrested Sunday and a third remains on the lam.
"We want to look at the video. And I think it's important to remember that these individuals had been observed involved at a triple shooting at the time," Ramsey said. "There is also a lot of heightened emotions since Sgt. Liczbinski was murdered on the streets just Saturday."
Liczbinski was the third officer slain on duty in the city in the last two years.
D. Scott Perrine, a lawyer representing the three suspects, said that as terrible as the officer's death was, it does not excuse such actions by police.
"We don't take into consideration the emotions of police officers when it comes to the discharge of their duties. ... Your emotional state, being tired, doesn't justify what's on that video," Perrine said.
Perrine said one of his clients, Dwayne Dyches, suffered a welt on his head the size of a baseball and that one of his legs was seriously injured. He said police would not allow him to meet with Dyches alone in the hospital Monday night. Perrine said he now also represents the other two men in the car, Brian Hall and Pete Hopkins, but he did not know the extent of their injuries.
The attorney said he did not know what preceded the traffic stop in the city's Hunting Park neighborhood, but that the video shows an unjustified police beating.
"It clearly shows a lack of any reasonable investigation before these police yank these individuals out of the car and take turns delivering blows," Perrine said. "This is a time for a thorough investigation to see what it is that happened here. The question is 'Did they have probable cause?"'
Perrine said that if the police account of events was correct, his clients would have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Instead, he said police told him that all three would be charged with aggravated assault, a charge he said was intended to justify the officers' acts.
"Look at that video and try to determine if these guys even had a chance," Perrine said.
Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, did not immediately return a call for comment from The Associated Press.