This morning marks the beginning of the controversial Rodney King style police brutality trial, Commonwealth v. Askia Sabur. The trial has captivated Philadelphia citizens, spawned protests, and garnered international attention. Unlike King, Sabur was merely standing and conversing when he was attacked by police—there was no high speed chase or other illegality by Sabur prior to his being beaten by police.
On September 3rd, 2010, Askia Sabur was standing with a relative in front of the Lucky Garden Chinese Restaurant at the corner of Landsdowne Ave. and Allison Street in West Philadelphia, waiting for an order of food that he had purchased. Philadelphia Police Officers Jimmy Leocal and Donyule Williams approached the men, unlawfully ordering them to leave the area. Before Askia and his cousin Shawn Merrit could comply, The officers grabbed Mr. Sabur’s arm as he was reaching for his identification to place him under arrest. When the officers’ reason for arresting Sabur was questioned, the officers viciously beat Sabur in front of a growing crowd of onlookers. Askia was viciously beaten by Philadelphia Police Officers for well over 2 minutes. Officer Leocal wildly and illegally pointed his gun at the crowd. Multiple officers broke or tried to break cell phones that were being used to video the police abuse in order to cover up their fellow officers’ misconduct. At the end of the altercation, Mr. Sabur had suffered a broken arm and required 6 staples to close deep gashes on his head. After the incident police first claimed that Askia Sabur was arrested for disorderly conduct and then changed their story to claiming that Sabur was “blocking the flow of pedestrian traffic.” Interestingly, Sabur was not charged with either of these crimes and instead was charged with assaulting police.
The savage beating Mr. Sabur underwent was filmed by an bystander using a cell phone camera. The video has been posted on YouTube, and can be found at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQXh-v3IZ4c
Askia Sabur’s case has been consolidated with another instance of police misconduct involving Sabur’s cousin, Tanya Yates. Ms. Yates was at her grandfather’s home when it was invaded by police without the authorization of a warrant under the pretense that they were searching for a suspect. When Ms. Yates refused to allow the police to enter her family home without a warrant, police forced their way in and grabbed Ms. Yates by the hair to drag her out of the house for questioning. Ms Yates was beaten by police for resisting. During the altercation between Tanya and the three officers, she was beaten several times in the face and lower body and was rushed to the hospital for treatment. This incident is believed to have been initiated by Philadelphia police in retaliation for Sabur’s and his community’s outspoken criticism of the police after his arrest. Police involved in Ms. Yates’s case were from the same Philadelphia police district where Sabur’s attacking officers worked.
Askia Sabur and Tanya Yates have both retained the counsel of Lawrence Krasner, of Krasner & Long, to defend them in this matter.