Captured on video beating an apprehended suspect unconscious, an LAPD officer will avoid serving any jail time after prosecutors agreed to community service and probation instead. Although a Los Angeles police official described the unprovoked assault as “horrific,” the LAPD and District Attorney’s office continue to suppress the footage from the public.
Shortly after noon on October 16, 2014, Clinton Alford Jr. was riding his bicycle home in South Los Angeles when a car pulled up behind him with the driver ordering him to stop. Since the man did not identify himself as a police officer, Alford continued pedaling until someone grabbed the back of his bike. Fearing for his life, Alford immediately jumped off his bike and fled.
While pursuing Alford on foot, officers used a Taser to subdue him. Without resisting, Alford fell onto the street and placed his hands behind his back. Two officers restrained Alford as a patrol car pulled up alongside them. LAPD Officer Richard Garcia exited the vehicle and began kicking Alford in the head.
Although Alford had already been placed in handcuffs, Officer Garcia used his elbows to strike the back of Alford’s head and upper body. Alford’s head bounced off the pavement after each blow. As the officers restraining Alford backed away, Garcia leaned one knee into the small of Alford’s back while placing his other knee on Alford’s neck.
After losing consciousness and a filling during the assault, Alford’s limp body was carried into the back of patrol car by the callous officers. That’s when the cops noticed the surveillance camera on a nearby building pointed at them. Garcia knocked on the door of the building until someone eventually opened it. The video, which has not been released to the public, ends with Garcia entering the building.
“I was just praying that they wouldn’t kill me,” recalled Alford. “I just closed my eyes and tried to hold on.”
According to the officers’ attorney Gary Fullerton, the officers were attempting to locate a robbery suspect that fit Alford’s description. In a case of mistaken identity, the cops pursued and arrested the wrong man. The officers were placed on paid administrative leave following the incident.
Charged with a felony count of assault under the color of authority, Garcia faced a maximum sentence of three years in prison if convicted. Reaching a plea agreement with the prosecution, Garcia pleaded no contest in exchange for serving community service instead of a jail sentence. Garcia also agreed to donate $500 to a charity before the end of May 2017.
“I understand how in looking at the final result, someone may think that it wasn’t a just sentence,” Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey told the LA Times. “I do think it sends a strong message to any law enforcement officer who is thinking about violating the law.”
But activists and community leaders have accused Lacey of repeatedly failing to uphold her duties by refusing to prosecute law enforcement officers or agreeing to more lenient sentences. Recently, Lacey declined to file charges against the two LAPD officers responsible for killing an unarmed, mentally ill man named Ezell Ford. The District Attorney also refused to charge CHP Officer Daniel Andrew after he was caught on cell phone video repeatedly punching Marlene Pinnock in the face.
“She has hurt the community more than she’s helped us by not holding these people accountable,” Mac Shorty, the chair of the Watts Neighborhood Council, told the Times. “If I do something wrong, I face prison time. It’s not fair to the community that anybody coming into the community mistreats someone and gets a slap on the wrist.”
Sentenced to 300 hours of community service, Garcia has been ordered to stay away from Alford and agreed not to break the law again before his next hearing in May. By following the guidelines and donating $500 to a charity, Garcia will avoid serving any jail time and would only be placed on two years of probation.