updated 6/28/2004 1:18:44 PM ET 2004-06-28T17:18:44

A police officer caught on videotape pummeling a suspected car thief with a flashlight said he delivered the blows because another officer warned that the man was carrying a gun, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

John J. Hatfield told investigators that another officer attempting to handcuff 36-year-old Stanley Miller after a car chase Wednesday felt a metal object in Miller’s pants, the newspaper said, citing anonymous sources.

Hatfield tried to subdue Miller by kicking him and striking him 11 times with a metal flashlight. The object mistaken for a gun was later revealed to be wire cutters in Miller’s right front pants pocket.

Hatfield’s account was corroborated by two other officers at the scene, the Times reported. Officers were also concerned that Miller may have been concealing a weapon in his left hand, but they later learned he was clenching money.

A defense lawyer was unsure whether Miller had wire cutters but said the beating was unjustified.

“It’s a Keystone Kops response to scream, ’gun,’ and pound a guy 11 times with a flashlight when he’s already pinned to the ground and then say, ’Oops, guess it was a pair of wire cutters,”’ attorney Mark Werksman said.

No charges filed
On Friday, prosecutors declined to file charges against Miller because there were questions about whether the arresting officers would be able to testify against the suspect. But prosecutors did not rule out possible charges in the future.

The treatment of Miller, a black man, has drawn comparisons with the Rodney King beating in 1991 and sparked criticism by city leaders.

“I’m demanding an explanation,” Mayor James K. Hahn said at a City Hall news conference Friday. “It better be a good one. It looks to me that force was unwarranted.”

Dozens of activists voiced outrage over the incident at a rally Friday in downtown Los Angeles. Many protesters carried flashlights like the one Hatfield used to strike Miller.

Hatfield, who is Hispanic, and two other officers involved in Miller’s arrest will be investigated for excessive use of force. Eight officers have been placed on desk duty as the FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigate. The LAPD also has started an internal probe.

Miller, 36, remained jailed on a parole violation, his attorney said.

Miller’s lawyer argued that he should be released so he can receive medical treatment for any injuries suffered during the beating.

Police previously characterized Miller’s injuries as a “very minor abrasion” on his face. Sgt. Catherine Plows said Friday he was given a complete medical examination after his arrest.

Miller was released from prison in February. He has a criminal record dating back to 1994 that includes car theft, forgery and attempting to escape, records show. One probation report described him as a longtime crack cocaine user.

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