BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Five Birmingham police officers were fired Wednesday for beating an apparently unconscious suspect after a roadway chase, an attack caught on a patrol car videotape that didn't surface publicly for a year.
Police Chief A.C. Roper said the officers, who were not identified, were seasoned veterans but acted in a "shameful" manner.
The video shows police pursuing Anthony Warren's van on Jan. 23, 2008. One officer on foot was injured when the van swerved through traffic. The van overturned on a ramp, ejecting Warren, who lay motionless as officers ran toward him. The video shows them beating him with fists, feet and a billy club.
Roper said the department had "terminated 50 years of combined service due to 10 seconds of injustice."
The officers can appeal.
Authorities believe numerous Birmingham officers and as many as a half-dozen supervisors saw the video over the past year, but none reported it.
"In addition to these terminations, we're also reviewing our supervisor's actions, reporting mechanisms and policies," Roper said.
He said disciplinary action may be taken against supervisors. The Alabama Bureau of Investigation will review possible criminal charges.
District Attorney Brandon Falls said Wednesday the tape of the beating surfaced unexpectedly as prosecutors were preparing to try Warren for assault in connection with the chase.
He said prosecutors had a video of the chase "but the beating was not on the copy we had."
Falls said the prosecutor wanted to play the video for the jury but, for technical reasons, she needed another copy and asked for the original.
"We got the original the week before the trial ... and that's where she saw the rest of the tape," he said.
He said they contacted the defense, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and the Birmingham police chief.
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Warren, who had been held under $1 million bond after the chase, pleaded guilty in March 2009 to first-degree assault and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Because of his plea, no trial was held.