Men beaten by police cry in court

June 26, 2009 4:07:30 AM PDT
Two of three defendants beaten by Philadelphia police during an arrest caught on tape wept as the news footage aired in court Thursday. Brian Hall and Pete Hopkins Jr. are on trial for a shooting earlier that night along with Dwayne Dyches, who kept his composure as the tape played in the packed city courtroom.

The city fired four police officers and disciplined or demoted others in the wake of the violent May 2008 arrest, which Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey called "a black eye" for the department.

An intense manhunt was under way at the time for the man who had killed a police sergeant two days earlier, and some speculate that police who took part in the beating thought that fugitive was in the car.

However, police radio calls played in court Thursday make no mention of the sergeant's slaying.

Officer Lisa Pittaoulis, who led the 2 1/2-mile police chase of Hall's vehicle after it failed to stop, took the stand Thursday and called the arrest a "violent struggle."

Asked about the term on cross-examination, she admitted that she did not see any of the defendants strike any officers. However, she said she thinks the back-seat passenger threw a punch at one of the four officers later fired. And she noted that Hall's failure to stop for several miles created a hazard.

"It makes it very dangerous for police officers," Pittaoulis said.

The trial, which began Tuesday, is expected to conclude next week.

Defense lawyers said that at least 21 police officers and 17 patrol cars were on the scene. The tape shows one officer break the suspects' window with a baton, before police pull the men from the car and beat and kick them when they are on the ground.

Prosecutors say the men were fleeing that night after Hopkins shot three people on a North Philadelphia street corner. Two victims testified Thursday that they did not see who shot them.

The defendants say they were on their way to a funeral vigil.

Assistant District Attorney Carol Meehan Sweeney told jurors that they should not let guilty defendants off just because of the disturbing videotape.

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