Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 11:09 UK

US police fired over beating film


The video shows the police chase, and officers appearing to hit the suspect

Five US police officers in Birmingham, Alabama have been fired for beating an unconscious suspect who had crashed his car in a police pursuit.

The attack on Anthony Warren took place in January 2008, but police video footage has only just been made public.

It was uncovered in March by prosecutors preparing a case against Warren for assaulting an officer, for which he was later convicted.

Officials said other officers had seen the video but never reported it.

The video was captured on 23 January 2008 by a camera mounted on a police car dashboard.

It shows Warren, who had been questioned about possible drug activity, driving at speed along a motorway, pursued by at least three police cars.

As horrific as the beating is, the deliberate tampering of evidence is just as horrific
Wendy Crew, lawyer

He swerves around one vehicle before hitting and injuring a police officer on foot.

Warren then turns onto a slip road and appears to swerve before the car rolls into a ditch, but a cut in the video makes it unclear how he came to lose control of the car.

He is thrown from the car window and lies in the ditch not moving before the policemen rush over and begin beating him.

At least one officer jumps onto Warren with his fist raised and another uses a baton to hit him. Warren does not move throughout the attack.

'Horrific tampering'

Undated Jefferson County Sheriff's Office photo of Anthony Warren
Warren's lawyers said he did not know about the attack until he saw the video

The footage emerged as state lawyers were preparing a case of attempted murder against Warren for the police officer he hit on the road.

District Attorney Brandon Falls said the video police provided as evidence stopped before the footage of the beating and he only saw the full version by chance a week before the trial.

But Mr Falls said he did not believe race was a motivation in the attack on Warren, who is black, saying both black and white officers were involved.

Wendy Crew, who is representing Warren in a civil case against the police, accused the police of interfering with evidence.

She said there had been no reason to use "excessive force" against Warren but that the "deliberate tampering of evidence" by police was "just as horrific" as the attack itself.

Lawyers for Warren said he was hospitalised after the incident and was not aware that he had been beaten until the video came to light.

The five policemen have not been identified but Police Chief AC Roper said they were veteran officers who had acted in a "shameful" manner.

He said his department had "terminated 50 years of combined service due to 10 seconds of injustice".

In Birmingham, Alabama, in the present day, it is not acceptable
Mayor Larry Langford

"No doubt this guy was a menace to society, but he didn't deserve what happened to him, bottom line," Mr Roper was quoted as saying by Birmingham News.

"I fully support our officers and fully believe in officer safety, but this video speaks for itself."

The authorities believe that many police officers and supervisors had watched the video in the year before it was made public but had not reported it.

Mr Roper said a review would be carried out into "supervisor's actions, reporting mechanisms and policies".

The officers can appeal against their dismissal.

Warren pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was given a 20-year prison sentence.

Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford said the incident was a reminder of Alabama's history of police brutality and segregation.

"In Birmingham, Alabama, in the present day, it is not acceptable," he said.

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