Philadelphia police investigating alleged beating of suspect in arrest

Posted: September 10, 2010

A video showing baton-wielding police officers repeatedly striking a man in West Philadelphia has prompted an Internal Affairs investigation, police said.

The 21/2-minute video, posted on YouTube, captures the violent arrest of Askia Sabur, 29, outside a takeout restaurant at Lansdowne Avenue and Allison Streets around 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Five men, including Sabur and a cousin, were standing outside the Lucky Garden Chinese restaurant when two officers asked them to clear the corner. Sabur refused, telling the officers he was waiting for his food.

In interviews, police, Sabur, his lawyer, and several witnesses agreed on that much. What happened next is in dispute.

Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, said Sabur knocked one of the officers to the ground before the video as posted on YouTube begins.

"It started with a police officer lying on the bottom of the pile," Vanore said. "The video doesn't show everything. Stuff happens before, and stuff happens after. Our Internal Affairs is trying to get the whole picture."

The YouTube video shows Sabur on the ground, surrounded by four officers, with one striking him in the head and torso with a baton. Onlookers are heard shouting, "Stop!" and, "You're going to kill him." At one point, the officer pulls a gun and tells the crowd to "back up."

The video, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQXh-v3IZ4c&sns=fb), had been viewed more than 10,000 times as of Thursday.

Because the video is dark and jumpy, not all the officers are clearly identified, nor is it clear how many were involved.

Sabur was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment, and resisting arrest. Vanore said Sabur would also be charged with robbery because he tried to take an officer's gun and baton.

"Not every arrest ends with someone saying, 'Thank you,' " Vanore said. "It's a shame. This is one case where the male was not compliant."

In an interview, Sabur said he suffered a broken arm during the arrest. He also required six staples to close gashes on the back of his head that he said were caused by the baton blows.

"It's like they were trying to kill me," he said.

Sabur said that when the officers asked for identification, he reached into a pocket to get it and "they grabbed my arm and started choking me."

His attorney, Evan Hughes, ridiculed the charges, particularly the robbery allegation.

"If he tried to take an officer's gun, if he had actually done that, they would have shot him," Hughes said.

"It doesn't take a genius to figure out the police are backtracking, trying to justify what happened, and it's not going to work," Hughes said. "As this develops, the truth will come out."

Sabur, who grew up in the neighborhood, is known there for his drawings and clothes designs.

He pleaded no contest to attempted burglary in Montgomery County in 2002 and was sentenced to five years of probation.

Outside Lucky Garden Thursday afternoon, blood still stained the sidewalk. Neighbors said they were outraged.

"It's a modern-day Rodney King," said Jamil Stroman, 40, referring to the infamous beating in Los Angeles in 1991.

"If that's the protocol for stopping civilians on the street, I don't understand it," Stroman said, adding that as an eyewitness, he had been interviewed Wednesday by Internal Affairs investigators.


Contact staff writer Kia Gregory at 215-854-2601 or kgregory@phillynews.com.

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