Two recall brutal assault by Fuhrman

September 10, 1995|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- Former LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman shocked the nation with audiotaped boasts that he and other officers pounded suspects' faces to "mush," pushed them down stairs and left their blood-splattered apartment in ruins after two of his partners were shot.

But for Albert Morales, those graphic claims of police abuse rekindled memories of what he describes as a night of "living hell." Mr. Morales, 37, now a drug rehabilitation and gang diversion counselor, said he and his brother were victims of police attacks after the shooting Nov. 18, 1978, of two officers at the Pico Gardens housing project.

The bloody beatings described in separate Los Angeles Times interviews with the Morales brothers, and detailed in a 1978 letter that a public agency lawyer wrote demanding an official investigation, match many aspects of the account given by Mr. Fuhrman in taped interviews with an aspiring screenwriter.

The Morales brothers say they were never interviewed by Los Angeles Police Department investigators who conducted an 18-month probe. The Fuhrman tapes have prompted new investigations.

"They started taking turns, hitting me with flashlights and clubs from all directions," Mr. Morales said in an interview last week. "I could feel the heat of the blood dripping down my face and the back of my neck."

Mr. Morales said he braced his hands against both sides of a stairwell, as the officers tried to shove him down the stairs. He said they shouted obscenities while they were pounding his body with their fists and clubs.

The 1978 letter written by a public service agency lawyer asked state and federal officials to investigate, claiming that the Morales brothers and other residents were battered by police after the two officers were shot. Of the various officers alleged to have participated in the beatings, only one was named in the letter: Mr. Fuhrman.

Mr. Fuhrman's civil attorney, Richard P. Towne, declined to comment Friday.

The Morales brothers' story suggests that Mr. Fuhrman was telling the truth on the tapes -- played in the absence of the jury at the O. J. Simpson murder trial -- instead of fabricating details to impress a would-be screenwriter, as he has claimed.

The incident began Nov. 18, 1978, when the two officers were shot about 12:45 a.m. after they chased a young man in a crowd in a parking lot, according to a report by the district attorney's office.

Benny Morales, Albert Morales' brother, said that he and two friends looked out of their window and saw about nine squad cars and officers pointing to his apartment building.

The cops came with the billy clubs and instead of knocking on the door they tried to pound it open," said Benny Morales, 35. "When they came in, they started swinging clubs."

Upstairs, the noise awakened Albert Morales, asleep with his girlfriend. "Come on down! Come on down with your hands up!" he said officers shouted. He said an officer burst into the room, grabbed his girlfriend by the hair and appeared to use her as a shield for himself and other officers -- a tactic described by Mr. Fuhrman.

Albert Morales said he raised his hands, then felt what he believes was a club strike his head. "The first hit, I saw stars. The second hit, I felt blood coming down my face," he said. He said the officers dragged him out of the bedroom to the head of the stairs, striking him about "30 to 40 times from all directions" with clubs, flashlights and fists.

"I remember a blow to the back of my head," he recalled. "I remember a second blow, and the lights went out."

A Sheriff's Department prisoner release form shows that Albert Morales was arrested for conspiracy to commit a crime and released at 11:45 p.m. on Nov. 18. The charges were dropped on Nov. 27, the document shows.

Benny Morales said he was released about 3 a.m. without being charged and walked home. The "house was upside down. It was a total disaster," he said. ". . . There was blood everywhere."

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