Recorded by an Okee who calls himself the Video Vigalante,an individual who fights "crime' with his camera, this clip records the brutal beating of a man whose crime was having sex with a prostitute in a van, and then trying to swallow his stash of marijuana when the cops showed up after being called by the Video Vigilante. Not only did the cops in this video try to charge the man getting beaten, Donald Pete, with assault, but they were also cleared of all charges of over excessive violence in the arrest!
Did Arrest For Lewd Behavior Expose Excessive Force Policies of OCPD?
UPDATE: On 10/18/02 Donald Pete and Leann Clark were sentenced. Mr. Pete pleaded no contest to Resisting Arrest, Engaging in an Act of Lewdness and Destruction of Evidence. Charges of Assaulting a Police officer, Possession of a CDS and possession of Drug Paraphernalia were dropped. Mr. Pete was sentenced to pay $700 in fines plus costs. Leann Clark was found guilty of Engaging in an Act of Lewdness and was sentenced to 9 months in jail and $130 in fines plus court costs.
7/8/02 [updated 7/12/02] Oklahoma City, OK -- OCPD officer dispatched to alleged prostitution related public sexual act in progress may have used excessive force while trying to arrest the male half of the lewd act.
At approximately 5:00pm I witnessed a known white or Hispanic female prostitute to be soliciting at a convenience store located at NW 9th and N Western. A black male driving an unmarked commercial delivery van, with out of state tags, stopped and the female entered the truck.
The truck drove three blocks to the Olivet Baptist Church parking lot at NW 11 and Klein. The truck parked in the far NW corner and the driver waited for individuals in
the parking lot to go inside the church. The occupants of the truck removed their clothes and began engaging in a lewd act. I dialed 911 and reported a prostitution related act of public lewdness going on in a church parking lot. Within only a few minutes an officer arrived on the scene. I explained that the couple was still engaged in a lewd act and that if he walked up to the truck he would witness it for himself. After witnessing the sexual act the officer drew his weapon and knocked on the truck's passenger side window.
The female exited the vehicle and sat down on the ground. The male began to exit the driver's side as the officer is heard to say, 'I'll shoot you in the Fucking Head."
After the driver exited the truck he sat on the curb. He was then ordered to stand up and turn around so the officer could handcuff him. While complying with that order and putting his hands behind his back, the officer noticed something in the suspects mouth. The officer stopped trying to handcuff the suspect and instead ordered him to open his mouth. The suspect did not comply to this order. He was ordered to get down on the ground. The driver did not comply immediately and the officer began to force the man to the ground. Though the driver was at no time witnessed to be assaulting or otherwise endangering the officer, the officer continued hitting, kicking and punching the driver. I noticed the officer having difficulty holding the suspect still, so I set down my camera and offered to help hold the man down so the officer could put handcuffs on him without any additional force. I was order to stay away.
The officer then discharged his mace at least twice on the driver. The officer then pointed and asked me to hand him his baton. I complied and the officer continued to beat the driver even though he was lying on the ground and was not fighting with the officer.
The officer called for assistance at least twice while trying to make the arrest.
A second officer arrived and then both were witnessed to be beating the driver and macing him. The entire time the suspect was presenting no physical threat to the officers. However, the suspect was not placing his hands behind his back as ordered and did push himself off the ground and sat up. In response, the two officers struck the suspect several more times and continued striking him even after he lay on the ground bleeding.
Bloodied and beaten, the suspect was placed in a police van and driven from the scene. Officers at the scene claimed the driver assaulted the police officer and was not complying with their orders.
I do not necessarily feel the arresting officers did anything "wrong." By wrong I am referring to breaking the law or violating any current policies. However, that only leads to the bigger concern. The only thing more dangerous than an individual police officer out of control is an entire police department that endorses and embraces such out of control policies.
Police policies are enacted to accurately reflect the desires of the community to which those officers are entrusted to protect and to serve.
I feel that generally such policies are supported when written on paper. However, very few individuals actually ever see those policies in action.
I feel it is important that the public view this video in its entirety before making any judgments. The community should then decide whether or not police officers have the legal right to use ANY means possible (short of lethal force) to impose their will on any individual which they come into contact with. If not, then these policies need to be revised.
UPDATE: 7/18/02 - The exclusive Donald Pete television interview will air tonite on KOCO Channel 5 during the 10pm newscast.
UPDATE: 7/15/02 - City drops charge of assault on a police officer! Ask yourself this, if my camera had not been rolling do you think those charges would have been dropped or do you think he would have been falsely accused and convicted?
7/11/02 - NOTE: I am told the Oklahoma City 911 dispatch center is being flooded with calls regarding this video tape. Please, regardless of whether or not you approve of how arresting officers responded in this situation, DO NOT TIE UP 911 LINES with non-emergency calls. The police have requested that individuals utilize the official OCPD web site at ocpd.com and click on "contact us."
On 7/10/02 I was asked by OCPD detective Scott Samuels to come to the police department for an "interview." This interview quickly became an interrogation when I was locked in a small room with the detective. Det. Samuels tried to intimidate me by making false statements and trying to make me agree to them. Among those false statements was that the arresting officer DID NOT order me to hand him his metal baton. Instead, Det. Samuels stated that the officer's back was to me and that there was no way he could have gave such instructions. He accused me of giving the officer the baton without being told to do so just so the officer could beat the suspect. These frames clearly show the officer pointing to his baton and ordering me to give it to him. I then sat down my camera and complied. I certainly hope this "detective" pays more attention to his other more serious cases.
Lane: officers will not be prosecuted in beating case
LANCE WEST reports
Updated: January 30, 2003
Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane announced at a community briefing Thursday that two white officers would not be prosecuted in a controversial arrest and excessive use of force against a black man last summer.
In early July, 2002, Donald Pete was videotaped by Brian Bates, a private citizen known as "The Video Vigilante" for his efforts to rid his neighborhood of prostitution. Pete was found in a van in the company of a woman, allegedly smoking marijuana and engaging in sex acts.
Bates alerted police and two officers responded. While the woman was told to stay seated on the ground, the officers pulled Pete from the van and told him to lie on the ground. Pete is a very large man and was slow to respond. Pete was observed chewing what was believed to be evidence, one officer later said.
When Pete did not position himself as told the officers removed their expandable batons and began beating Pete on the back and legs. Bates continued videotaping the entire incident. The videotape set off a firestorm of publicity.
"It's not the officer s fault that Mr. Pete refused to simply put his hands behind his back, Lane said. If Mr. Pete had done that, that's reflected in the tape, as soon as he puts his hands behind his back the officers stopped, walked away, nothing further.
During its investigation, the U.S. Attorney's office worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine if the officers had used excessive force during the arrest. According to their statements, both officers believed that the suspect posed a significant threat to their safety until he was fully handcuffed. The U.S. Attorney's office concluded their was insufficient evidence to charge the officers.
To establish a criminal civil rights violation based upon excessive force, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived a victim of a constitutional right -- here, the right to be free from an unreasonable seizure or arrest. To act "willfully" means to act with a bad purpose to disobey or disregard the law. Law enforcement conduct that is based upon mistakes or bad judgment, alone, would not satisfy this standard.