LOS ANGELES -- Three Los Angeles police officers indicted in the Rodney G. King case have told department investigators that they feared for their lives as they beat and kicked the motorist and were ready to shoot him if necessary.
The officers' first detailed account of their actions is contained in a comprehensive 314-page Internal Affairs report on the incident, obtained yesterday by the Los Angeles Times. Compiled with information from 74 separate interviews, the report yields the most complete description yet of what transpired on March 3.
Among the highlights:
* Sgt. Stacey Koon said he ordered the baton blows because he feared that otherwise, deadly force would have to be used on King. "Flabbergasted" that King did not respond to the repeated blows, Koon said he had "never, never, seen anyone take [that] number of blows to the legs, arms, and torso."
After the incident, Koon told Lt. Patrick Conmay that King "would be in a lot of pain the next day."
But Koon did not believe that any of the baton blows were excessive or unnecessary. He also said he did not see anyone inappropriately kick King. He said the "entire incident was exactly consistent with [Powell and Wind's] training and entirely within department policy."
In summarizing Koon's position, the report added: "He understood it looked brutal on television, but everything done was necessary to control King, and it was all done with Koon's approval and direct orders."
* Officer Laurence M. Powell said he was so intensely wrapped up in subduing King that he never realized his fellow officers also joined in. He said that because of his high-level of "adrenalin, I was tunnel vision on the suspect."
Powell told investigators that when King stepped out of the car, it appeared he might be carrying a concealed weapon. Powell "started to really worry about the fact that he was just not listening to our orders."
After the beating, exhausted and sweating, he told Koon that it had been a "long altercation," and that his arms "were tired."
* Officer Timothy Wind said he was "pretty excited and kind of transfixed" during the incident. He said he also was confused and frightened.
Afterwards, tired and spent, Wind rode with the ambulance carrying King to a hospital jail ward and, when they arrived, he "fell asleep for 20 to 30 minutes."
* Officer Theodore Briseno, whose alleged criminal involvement has been limited to one kick, was not interviewed. But the investigators later found human blood stains on his boots and uniform pants. And one officer at the scene told the investigators: "Officer Briseno was highly excited at the scene; he was screaming . . . ."
After the King incident, Briseno walked over to Officer Glen King's patrol car. Briseno's partner that night, Officer Rolando Solano, remembered the incident vividly. According to the report:
"Solano was shocked by a couple of the blows he saw ricochet off King's shoulder and some of the chops which hit King's face. Solano felt it was brutal for him. It was the first time he had ever seen anything like this.
"Solano was surprised King could be hit so hard and still be standing."
The Internal Affairs report forms the basis for department recommendations that the four officers be fired.
King, a 25-year-old black man who was stopped after a traffic chase, suffered multiple injuries and bone fractures. The incident was captured on videotape by an amateur cameraman.