Officer in Beating Explains How it Happened

By Al Pefley   email

West Palm Beach, FL (WFLX)

For the first time we're hearing from one of the police officers involved in a beating  outside a pharmacy in West Palm Beach last year.

Kurt Graham gave a taped statement to internal affairs investigators last July.

Now that statement has just been released.   "At that time I didn't know what was goin' on. All the emotions were runnin', everything was pumpin'.  Adrenaline was rushin'," Graham told internal affairs.

Rookie West Palm Beach police officer Kurt Graham says he was scared the night he rushed to a CVS Pharmacy to help a fellow officer who had a robbery suspect down on the ground at gunpoint.

"I might've just overreacted to the whole stress of the situation and just kicked him," Graham said.

In his statement to internal affairs, Graham explained how he handcuffed the guy.

"I walked up on the right side of him, placed my knee in the upper portion of his back, um, grabbed his right arm, pulled his left arm over, handcuffed him that way," he said.

Although he had the guy pinned to the ground with his knee, Graham says the suspect was able to raise his head and tried to bite him.   "I felt something like he was trying to bite me. So at that point, I punched him in the face to try to get him to stop," Graham said.

Graham says that didn't work, so he went a step further.

"At that point I was still focused on him mainly. I stood up, possibly overreacting a little bit, call it overreacting maybe and then I kicked him in the head again," Graham explained.

In fact, the video from that night from a squad car camera  shows both West Palm Beach Police officers--Graham and Louis Schwartz---kicked the suspect.

Graham says the man had a knife too.

"I did see a knife, it was a black knife. Folded closed. It was somewhere in the vicinity of me and him.  I don't remember exactly where it was at.   Uh again, it was, along with the biting, everything was just kinda, was everywhere at that point.," he said.

An internal affairs officer asks: "When you punched him you punched him in the face and when you kicked him, you actually kicked him in the face?"  "Yes sir," Graham responded.

Despite what Graham said, internal affairs and prosecutors later concluded there was no knife out on the ground as Graham claimed.

The say the only knife at the scene was found later,  in a bag that the suspect had with him.

By the way, Graham resigned from the West Palm Beach Police force after the beating.

And the other officer Louis Schwartz was fired. Both of them face criminal charges and are awaiting trial.

A third officer, Jason Zangara, could be seen on the video punching the suspect.  He also was fired but has not been charged.