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3 New Orleans officers indicted in taped beating

Two fired New Orleans police officers and one current officer were indicted Wednesday in the videotaped beating of a retired teacher in the French Quarter last fall.
Robert Davis, whose beating by police on Bourbon Street in August was caught on videotape, arrives at court in New Orleans on Wednesday.Alex Brandon / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Two fired New Orleans police officers and one current officer were indicted Wednesday in the videotaped beating of a retired teacher in the French Quarter last fall.

The Oct. 8 beating of Robert Davis, 64, was caught on videotape by an Associated Press Television News crew covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Earlier, the grand jury had heard from Davis, who told reporters as he entered the courthouse that he barely remembers the attack and would not be able to recognize the officers who beat him. But Davis said he thought the three men deserved stiffer charges than the misdemeanor offenses they were originally charged with.

Robert Evangelist, 36, was charged with false imprisonment while armed with a dangerous weapon and second-degree battery; Lance Schilling, 29, was charged with second-degree battery; and Stewart Smith, 50, was charged with simple battery, according to a statement from District Attorney Eddie Jordan.

Evangelist and Schilling were fired after the incident; Smith was suspended but remains with the police force.

False imprisonment, the most serious of the charges, carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Second-degree battery is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $2000 fine, Jordan said. Simple battery is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a $500 fine.

A bloodied man lies handcuffed on the sidewalk after being arrested by police on Conti Street near Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans Saturday night, Oct. 8, 2005. At least one police officer repeatedly punched the 64-year-old Robert Davis, accused of public intoxication, and another officer assaulted an Associated Press Television News producer as a cameraman taped the confrontations. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)Mel Evans / AP

Davis spent more than an hour testifying about the beating, which left him lying on the street, hands cuffed and blood flowing from his head and face. Afterward, he told reporters that he still has headaches and back problems and even had to interrupt his testimony to take medicine.

“It went all right,” he said, adding, “but I can’t tell you anything. I’ve been sworn to secrecy.”

The retired elementary school teacher said he was “a private citizen here on business returning to my home. There was no need for what happened.”

A walk to the Quarter
He said he had returned to the storm-struck city to check on his property and was looking for a place to buy cigarettes in the French Quarter when police grabbed him.

The videotape shows an officer hitting Davis at least four times on the head. Davis twisted and flailed as he was dragged to the ground by four officers. One officer kneed Davis and punched him twice, and Davis is shown face-down on the sidewalk with blood streaming down his arm and into a gutter.

Smith had ordered APTN producer Rich Matthews and the cameraman to stop recording. When Matthews held up his credentials, the officer grabbed him, jabbed him in the stomach and delivered a profanity-laced tirade.

Evangelist and Schilling were charged with battery against Davis, and Smith was charged with battery against a reporter.

FBI agents seen joining in
The video also shows two FBI agents joining the police in subduing Davis. Their role is being investigated by federal officials.

A federal civil rights investigation also was launched.

“Without this videotape, I’m sure this case would be swept under the rug,” said Davis’ attorney, Joseph Bruno.

Davis has pleaded not guilty to charges of public intoxication, resisting arrest, battery on a police officer and public intimidation. His lawyer said this week he expects the charges will be dropped.