After reading the myriad racist comments on CNN’s story about Rodney King’s death, I feel a bit of pertinent info should not be flushed down the memory hole. King wasn’t the only one beaten that night, as many police brutality apologists (none of whom have ever driven over the speed limit, of course) like to claim, but the two passengers of King’s car were too.
The testimony of a passenger in Rodney King’s car that he, too, was beaten by police takes on new significance since the acquittal of four officers.
Bryant Allen testified during the officers’ trial that he was “kicked and stomped” as he lay on the ground outside King’s car, but neither the defense nor prosecutors followed up on his brief statement. On Monday’s “Montel Williams Show,” a syndicated television talk show, Bryant said: “I was stomped once and I was kicked twice.”…
On the show, he said he told police and prosecutors what happened to him soon after the March 3, 1991, videotaped beating of King. Bryant, 26, also filed a civil rights lawsuit last year, saying he was roughed up. But his recollection took on new significance after the officers were acquitted last week of beating King, sparking rioting in Los Angeles.
At least one juror said the panel voted to acquit the white officers because King, who is black, resisted arrest. The jurors reasoned that Allen and a second passenger, Freddie George Helms, were not harmed because they obeyed police orders after they were stopped.
Helms, who made similar allegations in a lawsuit, later was killed in a traffic accident.
Why do I remember this fact? Because I watched a lot of media surrounding the trial at the time, including an episode of The Montel Williams Show in which George Holliday’s video was stabilized and a police officer behind the rear of the car could be seen making a stomping motion. Unfortunately that segment of the MWS has not shown up on YouTube, and the only stabilization of the video I found online drifts away from the rear of the car.
On Feb. 21, 1993 Allen’s lawyer John Burton wrote in the Los Angeles Times:
No evidence concerning abuse of the passengers—one way or the other—was presented in the Simi Valley prosecution, a gap in the evidence defense attorney Michael Stone exploited to make this same false argument. In fact, both young men, Freddie G. Helms and Bryant Allen, reported from the outset that they were beaten while proned out.
Helms, who later died tragically in an automobile accident, said that he was struck when he turned his face toward the sounds of the King beating. Medical records document a laceration to the top of his head, and his bloodied baseball cap was turned over to Los Angeles Police Department internal affairs investigators. CHP Officer Timothy Singer reported seeing an unidentified LAPD officer strike Helms with a flashlight. Allen described being kicked and stomped by an unknown officer. His claim is corroborated by a portion of the Holiday videotape, which shows an officer stomping on something behind the King car, right in the spot where Allen was ordered down.
When asked by the prosecutor during her grand jury testimony whether either of the passengers was hurt, CHP Officer Melanie Singer answered “yes,” but there were no follow-up questions.
On March 6, 1993 Jim Newton reported:
A passenger in Rodney G. King’s car also was struck by police March 3, 1991,federal prosecutors alleged Friday, adding that they hope to introduce evidence of the second beating in the trial of four officers charged with violating King’s civil rights.
With the jury in the federal trial out of the room, Barry F. Kowalski, one of two lead prosecutors in the case, said Freddie Helms was hit while in custody and had to be treated at a hospital for a head wound the next day. The allegation had never been raised in court before and was not introduced during the officers’ state trial.
And on Feb. 8, 1994 the Times reported:
Bryant Allen and the estate of Freddie Helms, the two men who were passengers in Rodney G. King’s car on the night that police arrested and beat King, settled their cases Monday with the city of Los Angeles, accepting $55,000 in return for dropping their lawsuits against the city and a number of other defendants.