Rodney King, 25, San Fernando Valley, LA —March 03, 1991
Case: Rodney King was involved in an 8-mile high speed police chase. Once surrounded, King and his two friends were ordered to step out of the vehicle and lie face down on the ground. King refused to comply, but eventually got out of the car and resisted an arrest. Once King got physical with some of the officers, they shot him with a Taser gun to knock him to the ground. He was then beaten with 56 baton strokes and kicked repeatedly in the head, torso, and groin. The 4 officers, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Stacey Koon, were captured on camera and charged with criminal offenses.
Verdict: On April 1992, the acquittal of three of the officers in a state trial triggered the LA riots while jury hadn’t yet reached a verdict for the fourth.
These riots led to a federal trial where August 1992 saw the acquittal of two police officers and two found guilty of the civil rights charges made by The US Department of Justice. King received $3.8 million for the injuries he obtained.
The Christopher Commission report quotes an officer saying "[H]e pissed us off, so I guess he needs an ambulance now...." over his squad car radio after the beating.
Archie Elliott, 24, Prince George County, MD —June 18, 1993
Case: African-American Archie Elliott was handcuffed and placed in custody on a police cruiser by two police officers in Prince George County, Maryland for driving under the influence of alcohol. While cuffed, with a seat belt fastened over him, and the windows rolled up, he was shot at 22 times because the officers believed that they saw him pointing a gun at them. He was killed due to 14 of those bullets hitting him on his chest, arm, buttocks, and hand.
Verdict: The police officers, Leavitt and Cheney, were not criminally indicted by a county grand jury and were, thereafter, cleared by the Police Internal Affairs to return to duty. The reason for the dismissal of the case by the county was due to not enough evidence pointing to foul play.
Many argue that while Elliott was placed in custody for being heavily intoxicated, thoroughly searched with only two articles of clothing on him, handcuffed, and seated with a seatbelt on behind a car door window pulled to the top, it would have been close to impossible for him to point a gun at the two officers standing outside.
Desmond Robinson, 32, New York, NY—August 22, 1994
Case: Undercover NYPD officer Desmond Robinson was shot five times by white off-duty NYPD officer Peter Del Debbio. Robinson is African American and was in plain clothes at the time. Del Debbio stated that he thought Robinson was involved in a crime because he possessed a gun.
The incident occurred at the 53rd and Lexington Ave underground train station where a gun went off after being dropped on the ground by a youth. Robinson had picked up the gun and was in motion along with the gun in his hand, leading Del Debbio to begin firing. Robinson became critically injured with one bullet still remaining lodged into his back after hospital care.
Verdict: Del Debbio was dismissed by the Police Department due to being convicted of a second-degree assault. He was given five years’ probation and 200 hours of community service for his conviction.