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Probe launched in violent W. Phila. arrest

A video showing baton-wielding police officers repeatedly striking a man in West Philadelphia has prompted an Internal Affairs investigation, police said.

A video showing baton-wielding police officers repeatedly striking a man in West Philadelphia has prompted an Internal Affairs investigation, police said.

The 21/2-minute video, posted on YouTube, captures the violent arrest of Askia Sabur, 29, outside a takeout restaurant at Lansdowne Avenue and Allison Streets around 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Five men, including Sabur and a cousin, were standing outside the Lucky Garden Chinese restaurant when two officers asked them to clear the corner. Sabur refused, telling the officers he was waiting for his food.

In interviews, police, Sabur, his lawyer, and several witnesses agree on that much. What happened next is in dispute.

Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, said Sabur had knocked one of the officers to the ground before the posted video begins.

"It started with a police officer lying on the bottom of the pile," said Vanore. "The video doesn't show everything. Stuff happens before, and stuff happens after. Our internal affairs is trying to get the whole picture."

The YouTube video shows Sabur on the ground surrounded by four officers, with one striking him in the head and torso with a baton. Onlookers are heard shouting "Stop" and "You're going to kill him." At one point, the officer pulls a gun and tells the crowd to "back up."

The video, which can be seen at, had been viewed more than 10,000 times as of Thursday.

Because the video is dark and jumpy, it does not clearly identify all of the officers or how many were involved.

Sabur was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. Vanore said he will also be charged with robbery because he tried to take an officer's gun and baton.

"Not every arrest ends with someone saying, 'Thank you,' " said Vanore. "It's a shame. This is one case where the male was not compliant."

In an interview, Sabur said he suffered a broken arm during the arrest. He also required six staples to close gashes on the back of his head, which he said had been caused by the blows.

"It's like they were trying to kill me," Sabur said.

Sabur said that when the officers asked him for identification, he reached into a pocket to pull it out and that it was then that "they grabbed my arm and started choking me."

Sabur's attorney, Evan Hughes, ridiculed the charges, particularly robbery.

"If he tried to take an officer's gun, if he had actually done that, they would have shot him," Hughes said.

"It doesn't take a genius to figure out the police are backtracking, trying to justify what happened, and it's not going to work," said Hughes. "As this develops, the truth will come out."

Sabur, who grew up in the neighborhood, is known there for his drawings and clothes designs.

He pleaded no contest to attempted burglary in Montgomery County in 2002 and was sentenced to five years' probation.

Outside the Lucky Garden Thursday afternoon, blood stained the sidewalk. Neighbors said they were outraged.

"It's a modern-day Rodney King," said Jamil Stroman, 40, referring to the infamous beating in Los Angeles in 1991.

"If that's the protocol for stopping civilians on the street, I don't understand it," said Stroman, adding that he was interviewed on Wednesday by internal affairs.