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Police look into report of officer striking man

A resident videotapes part of an arrest, in which witnesses say police kicked and hit the suspect. Police say they do not believe the tape shows any misconduct.

Police are investigating an allegation that a robbery suspect was kicked and punched during an arrest Sunday outside the North Greenwood Apartments complex.

Witnesses say Clearwater police officers punched, kicked and hit Lee L. Williams Jr. with their nightsticks. A resident videotaped part of the arrest in which an officer appeared to strike Williams at least twice while he was face down and being handcuffed by two other officers. It is not clear on the video whether the unidentified officer's hand was clenched or open. The blows appeared to land on or near Williams' neck or shoulder.

Police spokesman Wayne Shelor said Tuesday that police do not believe the tape shows evidence of misconduct by the officers.

"There was nothing on the tape that gave investigators pause," Shelor said.

An officer said Williams hit him in the face while another officer said Williams kicked him twice, according to affidavits. But at least one witness said Williams offered no resistance.

Shelor said police Chief Sid Klein called for the investigation after reviewing the video, which had been shown to police by a local television reporter. Klein, through Shelor, declined to comment on the arrest, which took place about 7:30 p.m. at Palmetto Street and West Avenue.

Williams, 33, of 1001 N Greenwood Ave., was treated and released from Morton Plant Hospital. His charges included robbery, attempted armed robbery, resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer. He was being held Tuesday at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $170,500 bail.

Records show that Williams has at least 10 felony convictions since 1984, ranging from strong-arm robbery to cocaine sales.

Williams said in a telephone interview with the Times on Tuesday that he offered no resistance and was struck while being handcuffed. He said his face was swollen and he had neck and back pains. His parents went to police headquarters Tuesday to complain about the incident.

"You see things like this on TV but you say that would never happen to my child," said Williams' mother, Betty Williams, who said she saw officers kicking and punching her son in the head. "It's an awful experience."

Lee Williams was a suspect in an armed robbery and two attempted robberies between 6:45 and 7 p.m. that day. Officers saw his car at Pennsylvania Avenue and Seminole Street and chased the car to his parents' apartment.

Wilfred Holmes, who lives a block away from that intersection, was in his front yard video taping his son practicing football when he ran to the corner and taped part of the arrest.

He said Williams offered no resistance while officers punched and kicked him.

"I have never seen nothing like that before," Holmes said.

Shelor said there have been two allegations of excessive force this year and two last year. All four complaints were unfounded, he said.