POLICE COMMISSIONER Charles H. Ramsey yesterday asked Philadelphians not "to rush to judgment" when watching a video showing baton-wielding cops repeatedly striking, kicking and stomping three young men whom they had stopped after a triple shooting in Hunting Park.
"On the surface, it certainly does not look good in terms of the amount of force that was used," Ramsey said during a news conference with Mayor Nutter at police headquarters.
Ramsey said that an Internal Affairs investigation is under way. He expressed concern for the mental well-being of the entire force, which is still reeling in the wake of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski's slaying last weekend.
Ramsey said officers are on edge, upset and tired from an exhaustive, round-the-clock police manhunt for Eric DeShawn Floyd, the only suspect still being sought in Liczbinski's murder.
D. Scott Perrine, a defense attorney representing the three men, said the commissioner seemed to be making excuses for "barbaric" police behavior.
"[Ramsey] implores Philadelphians to take sympathy on behalf of police officers who engaged in behavior that is indicative of guerrilla-warfare tactics that we would see in Iraq before we liberated that country," Perrine said last night.
On Monday night, a Fox 29 news helicopter hovered overhead as police pulled over a car driven by Brian Hall, 23, on 2nd Street near Lippincott in Hunting Park. The video shows officers yanking Hall and two passengers, Dwayne "Lionel" Dyches, 24, and Pete Hopkins, 19, out of the car.
More than a dozen officers begin to kick and hit the men as they lay on the ground. An officer grips the leash of a riled-up police dog, which circles the suspects, the video shows.
The images are reminiscent of two other police beatings caught on TV news video: A 2005 video showing narcotics Officer Michael Collins striking citizen Charles Baum eight times, and a 2000 incident showing 14 city officers beating carjacker Thomas Jones.
Ramsey said that the latest incident occurred after a team of narcotics officers with the 25th Police District in North Philadelphia witnessed a triple shooting during a drug surveillance at 4th and Ansberry streets. The officers were hoping to arrest drug suspects and question them about the slaying of Andrew Coach on Sunday, Ramsey said.
Police watched as four men got out of a gold Mercury Grand Marquis and walked to the corner. One of them then fired upon three other men standing on the corner. The man who fired took off running and his three companions got back in the Grand Marquis and drove off, with police in pursuit, Ramsey said.
That's when police pulled over Hall, Dyches and Hopkins, Ramsey said.
In answering to the video yesterday, Ramsey and Nutter found themselves in a delicate spot. They seemed to walk a fine line between expressing support for the city's men and women in blue in the wake of Liczbinski's murder and expressing dismay over a video that depicts an undeniably violent police encounter.
"The video is the video," Nutter said. "We have no audio. You don't know what was going on at that moment when the officers approached the vehicle. There will be an investigation and we will move on."
Nutter added: "This is very dangerous work. We had an officer assassinated on Saturday. . . . Everyone has to understand that this entire city has been affected."
Ramsey said that officers are expected to conduct themselves professionally, but that the department is going through a "difficult period of time," mentioning that Liczbinski's funeral on Friday "looms over our heads."
"We have officers across the city that feel the impact of the murder of Sergeant Liczbinski," Ramsey said. "[But] we don't lower our standards simply because of the emotional state we're all in right now."
Parents of the three men - all from North Philly - expressed outrage yesterday.
They said that their sons were on their way back home after attending a prayer vigil for their friend, Andrew Coach, who was killed Sunday.
"Nobody deserves to be beat like that," said Leomia Dyches, mother of Dwayne Dyches, through streaming tears. "If you do an animal like that, they'll throw you in jail for treating a pit bull like that, so how can Philadelphia police call themselves officers and treat another human being like this?"
Dyches has had previous brushes with the law, including two arrests for drug possession, criminal records show.
Pete Hopkins is facing a pending criminal charge of criminal trespass. He has a juvenile conviction for drug delivery and weapons offenses, records show.
The driver of the car, Brian Hall, has no criminal record.
Perrine said that the previous criminal charges against his clients are irrelevant.
"That frankly has nothing to do - nor does it ever justify - being grabbed out of your car and beaten the way they were beaten," he said.
Lisa Hall, Brian Hall's mother, said she cried and screamed when she saw the video yesterday on the news. The video shows her son lying still on the ground, apparently unconscious, as the officers kick him.
"You just beating them like they are a piece of meat," she said during an interview at her sister's North Philly house.
Hall's sister Johnnie Mae Doe said she doesn't believe that her nephew was involved in a triple shooting.
"Brian is not like that," she said. "I guess anything is possible, but I know what we instilled in Brian, and I know Brian has morals. There are three sides to every story - there's your side, their side, and then there's the truth."
Police said that they believe that the triple shooting may have been retribution for the slaying of Coach.
The fourth man, who police said fired at the three men on the corner, is still at large. Police did not have a name or description of the suspect last night.
The three shooting victims are recovering from their gunshot wounds, police said.
Perrine said that the story detailed by Ramsey is riddled with inconsistencies and questions.
"[Ramsey's] diatribe is absent of concrete facts," Perrine said.
Dyches, Hopkins and Hall have been charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, weapons possession and criminal conspiracy. Bail was set at $300,000 for Hall and $1 million for Hopkins. Dyches' bail hearing was delayed last night when police at the 25th District apparently took him back to the hospital after he complained of back pain, Perrine said. *