Officer says wire cutters were 200 yards away, not in the
suspect's pocket, according to a source.
By Scott Glover and Matt Lait, The Los Angeles Time
Wire cutters that Los Angeles police have said were discovered on a
suspect in a recent televised beating were actually found after the
man's arrest and more than 200 yards away - in a car he had allegedly
stolen, according to a source familiar with the case.
The location of the wire cutters has emerged as a key element of the
investigation into last month's controversial incident. Officers used
the existence of the tool to try to help explain why the suspected
car thief, 36-year-old Stanley Miller, was repeatedly struck with a
flashlight, sources have said.
The pummeling of the African American, which some community leaders
have compared to the 1991 beating of Rodney G. King, has sparked a
public outcry and fresh calls for reform of the Los Angeles Police
The official arrest record in the case says the cutters were found in
Miller's right front pants pocket, according to sources familiar with
But Officer Peter Bueno, who recovered the cutters, has notified
department officials through his attorney that the arrest report is
incorrect, according to a source close to the investigation. Bueno,
who is seen on the videotapes of the beating kneeing Miller, says the
cutters were found in the white Toyota Camry that Miller allegedly
stole before his arrest, the source said.
LAPD investigators, who interviewed Bueno earlier, have yet to
re-interview him about his statement regarding where the cutters were
found. They plan to do so as soon as today, the source said. It is
unclear whether investigators asked Bueno in the initial interview
about where the cutters were discovered.
It is not known when Bueno's attorney first approached department
officials to tell them that the arrest report was wrong. The lawyer
could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Last week, investigators examined videotapes of the incident to
determine when and where the cutters were found, sources said. The
tapes did not appear to show the tool being recovered from Miller at
Two weeks ago, in public testimony, Assistant Chief George Gascon
said the cutters had been found on Miller's person.
The tool figures prominently in the account that officers have given
of the beating. According to sources, Officer John Hatfield told
investigators he struck Miller because another officer yelled that
the suspect was armed with a gun. That officer, David Hale, said he
shouted the warning after feeling a bulky object in Miller's pants,
Hale later said he believed the wire cutters were the object that he
mistook for a gun, sources have said.
After the beating, LAPD officials allowed the seven officers and one
sergeant involved to remain together for 45 minutes.
In cases involving alleged police misconduct, one issue that
frequently complicates an investigation is whether an officer's
statements are taken voluntarily or under compulsion. The police
union often prefers that the department compel testimony, because the
statements cannot then be used against the officer in future criminal
Mark Werksman, Miller's criminal attorney, said the new account of
the wire cutters' discovery did not surprise him.
"We've always maintained that there were no wire cutters in Mr.
Miller's possession at the time he was arrested and nothing else that
would justify the savage beating that was administered by the
police," Werksman said Tuesday. The lawyer has said Miller told him
he was wearing baggy sweatpants with loose pockets that would not
hold items securely.
"There's nothing on that videotape to suggest that the officers
feared he had a gun and that's why they beat him," Werksman added.
"It's always sounded implausible."
Miller's violent apprehension June 23 was captured by two television
news helicopters hovering above the scene. Video footage of the
beating, in which Miller is wrestled to the ground, kicked, and
struck 11 times with a flashlight, has aired repeatedly across the
After the incident, Police Chief William J. Bratton sought to assure
city and community leaders that the department was taking the beating
seriously and was conducting a thorough investigation, both
administratively and criminally.
Within days of Miller's arrest, Bratton and Gascon, who is one of the
chief's top advisors, went to City Hall to give a public briefing on
During their presentation, a blown-up photo of wire cutters with red
handles was projected onto the council's video screens. It was at
that point, under questioning from Councilman Jack Weiss, that Gascon
said the tool had been recovered from Miller's "person."
On Tuesday, Gascon said the briefing to the council was based on
crime reports completed by officers after the arrest.
"We made it perfectly clear that the information was preliminary and
that this was an ongoing investigation," he said. "New information is
Gascon and other department officials declined to discuss details of
the inquiry. Bratton has said the investigation will be completed
within 60 days of the incident.
Mayor James K. Hahn, in a telephone interview from Sacramento, said
that police officials had not briefed him about any new information
on the recovery of the wire cutters and that he therefore could not
Councilman Weiss called Bueno's account of where the cutters were
recovered "a devastating revelation."
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"It's compounded by the fact that somehow the chief was presented
with inaccurate information which he, in turn, presented to the
council," Weiss said. "Something clearly went terribly wrong - not
only with this arrest, but with the information presented up the
chain of command. I'm sure the chief is embarrassed."