Sheriff Larry Smith said he was shocked by a videotape of his deputies beating two suspected illegal immigrants after a car chase, saying they clearly used excessive force.
“There will be no cover-up,” Smith said Wednesday in his first comments on the beating taped by news helicopters overhead. “No one is above the law.”
The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation, and both the Los Angeles and Riverside sheriff’s departments are investigating. The clubbing happened in Los Angeles County but the pursuit began in Riverside County.
“We have to uphold the highest standards of conduct in this department,” Smith said. “Sadly, I didn’t see these standards on the tape. It was clearly an excessive use of force.”
Deputies Tracy Watson and Kurtis Franklin both were suspended with pay. Franklin has been with the department for 20 years, Watson for five.
“The entire story has not yet been told,” said Franklin’s attorney, John Barnett, who also represented a police officer charged in the Rodney King beating case. “This was a lawful use of force.”
Outside, about 75 people protested the beating.
“It’s not an isolated incident,” said Victoria Baca, president of the Mexican Political Association. “The only difference this time is that the video cameras were rolling.”
The deputies clubbed the immigrants after chasing a battered pickup crammed with people suspected of sneaking across the order. TV news helicopters captured the beating on video in broad daylight.
During the chase, the pickup reached speeds of 100 mph.