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Cop beat innocent man in Tampa, police decide

TAMPA - George Tyrone Daniels was walking through a public housing complex, heading toward his aunt's house, when two police officers approached him one night in November. The officers asked Daniels what he was doing in the area and searched him. They found no drugs nor weapons. Then they let him go.

But before the night was over, Daniels later complained, one of the officers had dragged him alongside his moving patrol car, sprayed him in the face with Mace after he was handcuffed, threw him on his face to the ground, kicked him several times and jumped on him.

On Wednesday, police officials upheld Daniel's complaint and a white police officer, Steve K. McCammond, is facing discipline for lying to internal affairs investigators and for using excessive force against Daniels, who is black.

McCammond's partner that night, Johnny Campbell, also faces discipline for lying to investigators. Campbell, a black rookie who had finished his police training only two weeks before the incident, didn't tell investigators everything he saw at first, investigators said.

Campbell later said his inexperience led him to remain silent, but "I felt it was basically wrong, what he was doing."

Although relations between blacks and police have seemed less strained in recent months, Wednesday's internal affairs report comes two years after a national Police Foundation study cited a pattern of unequal treatment toward black citizens by police.

According to that report, which was commissioned by the Greater Tampa Biracial Commission, police charged blacks more often than whites with resisting arrest, even though whites were convicted of it more often than blacks.

Since then, police officials and some community leaders have said the department is doing a better job at treating blacks fairly and encouraging better community relations.

Both officers in the current case will have a chance to appeal to a review board, which will probably happen within 10 days, officials said. Discipline will be left up to Police Chief Austin McLane.

McCammond said Wednesday night that he is confident the findings against him will be reversed.

"If I did all these things - knock you down and beat you - aren't you going to have injuries?" he said. "He didn't go to the hospital.

He didn't even need a Band-Aid. There was not a mark on him."

McCammond was involved in another controversial arrest in December after conflict arose on whether a gunshot during the arrest came from McCammond or the suspect. Attempted murder charges later were dropped against the suspect, although McCammond also was cleared of any wrongdoing, a police spokesman said.

Daniels, the man arrested in November, has no prior criminal record in Hillsborough County and works in the catering department of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, according to police records. He would not comment on the case. But according to the internal affairs file, Daniels was baffled at the treatment he received at the hands of police officers.

The two officers and Daniels all were required to take lie detector tests during the investigation. The results of the tests showed McCammond and Campbell were not telling the truth, while Daniels was.

Police records gave this account of the incident: Daniels was walking through Central Park Homes about 3 a.m. Nov. 9, 1989, on his way to his aunt's house after visiting a nearby bar. When the officers first questioned him, they gave him a trespass warning because he did not live in the complex.

McCammond and Campbell let Daniels go, but when they saw him several minutes later, they called him over to their car.

McCammond "reached out, grabbed my hand and then mashed on the gas and just pulled off," Daniels told police. "He had this old s----- ass grin on his face, which I knew right there would terrify me more than anything ... like he just had somebody out here funning him."

The officer dragged Daniels for several feet and let go. Daniels then walked up to his aunt's porch, at 1208 Governor Road. The two police officers got out of the car and followed. Here, Daniels' story differs from McCammond's.

According to Daniels, the officers handcuffed him and McCammond said, "Turn the motherf----- around, I'm gonna teach him a lesson," and sprayed Mace in his face.

Daniels' aunt and cousin, who were in the house, witnessed the incident and corroborated his story, as did another witness standing across the street.

McCammond said Daniels began fighting with him and tried to throw him off the porch. McCammond said he sprayed Daniels while trying to subdue him and then handcuffed him.

The officers put Daniels in the car and charged him with trespass after warning and resisting arrest with violence.

On the way to the jail, McCammond stopped in a field, pulled Daniels out of the backseat, threw him to the ground, kicked him twice, kneed him in the back and jumped on him. Several other witnesses in the area corroborated these charges, the police file said.

Daniels said he asked Campbell why he let this happen. He said Campbell told him to be quiet, before he let it happen again.

"Then tears just came to my eyes, and I just put my head down," Daniels later told investigators. "What hurts me the most is to know that I work hard everyday, and (they pick me up) just because I'm walking through the projects."