A black man has died in Cincinatti, Ohio, after a beating from two white police officers which was captured on video and has since been broadcast nationally. The case has prompted comparisons with the video-taped beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles and the shooting to death of a man, also in Cincinatti, two years ago which led to three days of riots.
Nathanial Jones, 41, who weighed 400 lbs (28 stone), collapsed outside a fast food restaurant and staff had called paramedics to help him.
When the paramedics arrived, Mr Jones reportedly became violent with them and they radioed for police assistance, saying Mr Jones was a creating a "nuisance."
When police arrived, Mr Jones apparently continued to behave violently as officers tried to arrest him.
The video, which was taken by a camera mounted on the dashboard of the police car, shows Mr Jones flailing at and wrestling with one of the officers. He is also shown grabbing the officer in an apparent headlock. The officers shouted at him to "put your hands behind your back".
The officers can then be seen whacking Mr Jones with their nightsticks (police batons), with one of the officers using the end of his nightstick like a spear, repeatedly jabbing the prone figure of Mr Jones. They continue to deliver the beating while he is on the ground.
Yesterday a police union spokesman defended the officers. "I want people to see the video and see just how violent this gentleman was," said Roger Webster, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. He said it was important that people saw the whole video and not just the end of it, when the police hit Mr Jones. He criticised the decision of Cincinatti police to reassign the officers to administrative duties. "The officers were treated as criminals," said Mr Webster. "In that video, what did these officers do wrong?"
A local community group yesterday called for the resignation of the chief of police, Thomas Streicher. Other community groups called for calm and for the whole story of the incident to emerge.
Charlie Luken, mayor of Cincinatti, said he had no intention of asking police chief Streicher to resign. "What I saw was a 400-lb man violently attacking a police officer in a manner that put the lives of police officers at risk," said Mr Luken. "While the investigations will continue, there is nothing on those tapes to sug gest that the police did anything wrong."
Cincinatti was the scene of riots in 2001 after a white police officer shot a black man dead. Relations between the police and the black community became strained in the wake of the incident and police procedures for dealing with complaints were introduced last year. Cameras were installed in police vehicles after allegations of police violence; their stated purpose was to protect officers from unsubstantiated or malicious accusations.
Los Angeles police officers were captured on video beating a black motorist, Rodney King, in 1991. The acquittal of the four officers involved in 1992 led to the LA riots, in which more than 50 people died. Mr King has since been in trouble with the police for a series of offences.
In a similar incident last year, Jeremy Morse, a police officer in Inglewood in LA county, was caught on film apparently beating a young black man whose father had been stopped for a motoring offence. Mr Morse was sacked by Inglewood police and sent for trial over the incident. The jury were unable to reach a decision in his trial this summer and a retrial is due on December 5th.