Television news crews in helicopters recorded the early morning car chase that ended in Compton shortly before 6 a.m. when about half a dozen LAPD officers ran after an African American man who bolted from a stolen Toyota Camry.
On the videotape, the unarmed man appears to surrender after sprinting a short distance along the concrete-lined Compton Creek channel, raising his arms and starting to crouch.
As two officers are restraining the suspected thief on the ground, a third officer is seen delivering a quick kick to the suspect and then striking him 11 times in the upper body with a flashlight. A short time after the man is handcuffed and in custody, three officers can be seen exchanging handshakes.
The LAPD and FBI have opened investigations.
The case is seen as a key test for LAPD Chief William J. Bratton, who has spent the last two years trying to improve relations with South L.A. communities, particularly African Americans, with the aim of trying to temper lingering anger and resentment over past police brutality. He and Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn promised a quick and thorough investigation.
"If, after that investigation, officers of the Los Angeles Police Department are found to have violated the law, those officers ought to be terminated. They ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Hahn said at a late afternoon news conference. "The community is watching. They'll hold us accountable. This is the test."