A police officer seen on videotape hitting an unarmed, handcuffed Iraq war veteran with his baton after knocking him to the ground said Thursday he kept delivering blows because the man kicked at him and threatened to kill him.
"He was aggressive and violent," London testified. "I was trying to get him to comply."
Prosecutors call the officer's conduct unjustified and say he lied to cover it up.
London, an officer for 16 years, confronted Harvin as the Army veteran walked into his mother's Manhattan apartment building without a key and declined to provide identification, the officer said.
Harvin shoved London, and the officer responded with a blast of pepper spray and a series of strikes from his baton, according to his testimony and the silent security-camera video. After the first few blows knocked Harvin down, London continued hitting him as he covered his face and was, after struggling, handcuffed, the video shows. It shows Harvin moving his legs toward the officer at points.
London said Harvin kicked him and shouted threats that the officer said he feared would draw a menacing crowd, though the confrontation in the building lobby appears to draw little notice from passers-by on the surveillance tape.
Ultimately hit nearly 20 times, Harvin suffered cuts and bruises. London said he was treated at a hospital for a back injury and released.
London said he felt he used the least amount of force he could to subdue Harvin, then 29.
London arrested Harvin and signed court paperwork saying Harvin punched him, which the video contradicts. London testified that he didn't read the papers carefully.
The charges against Harvin were dropped.
He is not expected to testify at London's trial; prosecutors, his lawyer and his mother have said they don't know where he is. His mother and his lawyer have said Harvin suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome that was worsened by his encounter with London.
London, 45, has been assigned to administrative duties since the incident. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.