LOS ANGELES — Ronald Weekley had plans to return to college this week in Louisiana where he was studying chemistry.
Instead, he says he finds himself questioning why he was forced to the ground by police officers in his yard over the weekend and hit in the face by one of the officers for enjoying a popular activity in Venice — skateboarding.
Weekley, 20, recounted his experience, which was partly caught on videotape, at a news conference on Tuesday flanked by his family and Florida attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents the parents of slain teen Trayvon Martin.
Crump called for a full investigation of the officers involved and said Weekley shouldn’t face any criminal charges stemming from his arrest on Saturday for investigation of using force to resist a police officer.
“They are unwarranted and they don’t deserve to see the light of a courtroom,” Crump said of any possible charges that could be filed against Weekley.
Weekley said he had been skateboarding and was opening the door to his house when officers grabbed him from behind and threw him to the ground. One officer grabbed his hair with one hand and began punching him in the face with the other, Weekley said.
A video taken by a bystander shows four officers apparently struggling on the ground with Weekley and one officer punching him once in the head. Weekley, who is black, maintains he was struck four times.
“I started screaming and yelling because I thought I was going to die,” said Weekley, who was overcome with emotion and put his head on his mother’s shoulder.
Weekley’s family said they will continue to press for answers about why officers took such extreme measures for such a minor infraction.
“Was he stopped because he was on the wrong side of the road or was he attacked because he was the wrong color?” asked Crump. “When you answer that question you put it in full context 20 years after Rodney King how much has changed within the LAPD.”
Officers spotted Weekley skateboarding in traffic, and he resisted when they tried to arrest him, police said. Weekley’s father, Ronald Weekley, said officers told him his son had been skateboarding in the wrong direction.
Weekley said he asked why he had been arrested and an officer told him he was dumb because he hadn’t stopped at a stop sign.
Police have launched an internal investigation to determine whether excessive force was used. The officers involved remain on duty, police said.
Officers received minor scrapes and bruises, authorities said, while Weekley said he suffered a broken nose, broken cheekbone and a concussion during the confrontation. His right eye appeared nearly shut Tuesday and there was some reddening around it.
Although the entire incident wasn’t captured on video, when asked by a reporter whether he had argued with officers before his arrest or had reached for an officer’s gun belt, Weekley responded, “Not true.”
Ernestine Anderson, who has lived in Venice since 1939, said she was unloading groceries with her sister when she saw Weekley being arrested. She said she saw Weekley’s body stiffen and told him not to resist.
“You could hear the licks. It was horrible,” Anderson said. “I thought they were going to shoot him.”
Weekley spent 48 hours in jail before he was released Monday, his family said. During that time, he wasn’t given immediate medical assistance and an officer allegedly said Weekley was “just another (expletive) from the hood.”
Regardless if race played a factor, Weekley’s family said the incident sends a bad message to the neighborhood where skateboarders and bikers often are rolling down the street to and from the beach.
“What’s happened to our community where kids can’t skateboard?” asked Weekley’s father. “This could be any of your sons.”
— Associated Press