PHILADELPHIA – Seven more police officers were taken off street duty Thursday as investigators look into the videotaped police beating of three shooting suspects during a traffic stop.
Thirteen of the estimated 15 officers on hand during the Monday incident have been taken off the streets as investigators pore over the television news footage, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told a news conference Thursday.
The video shows officers kicking, punching and beating the men, who are all black. On his syndicated radio show Thursday, the Rev. Al Sharpton, compared it with the videotaped 1991 beating of black motorist Rodney King by a group of white Los Angeles police officers.
"I've not seen anything like that since Rodney King, and it's worse than Rodney King, and we cannot allow our community to be under siege," Sharpton said. "We've got to stop this nonsense in our community, acting like you got to be a certain level black to be treated within the law."
But Ramsey denied the beating was racially motivated, saying at least one officer involved, a sergeant, is black.
"I know everybody's trying to make this into a racial thing. I don't believe it is," Ramsey told The Associated Press later Thursday. "We just had a policeman murdered on Saturday ... and emotions are running high," he said about Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, 39, who was shot while responding to a bank robbery.
On Monday, police stopped the suspects' car while investigating a triple shooting in the area. No weapons were found in the car or on the suspects, but officers said they had seen an occupant of the car shoot three people on a drug corner moments earlier, Ramsey has said.
The three suspects — Dwayne Dyches, Brian Hall and Pete Hopkins — each were charged with attempted murder and related counts in connection with the shooting, according to court records. Each was treated at a hospital and was being held Thursday in lieu of bail of $100,000 or more, Ramsey said.
An attorney for the three, D. Scott Perrine, has said his clients had nothing to do with the triple shooting and that the beating was totally unjustified.
The commissioner pledged to send the department's preliminary investigation to prosecutors by next week. If prosecutors decline to file charges, he will deal with the officers involved internally, he said.
The Internal Affairs unit is still working to enhance the tape and identify all of the officers in the footage, a department spokesman said.
Following the slaying of Liczbinski, who was shot at least five times by a high-powered rifle, city and state officials called on Congress Thursday to reinstate a ban on assault weapons.