JEFFREY KAYE: Once again, Southern Californians are deeply divided in the wake of a videotaped police beating.
PROTESTERS SHOUTING: Justice for all! Justice for all!
JEFFREY KAYE: All sides have weighed in loudly.
GLEEN SPENCER, Voice of Citizens Together: They ignored the police. Not only that, we understand they threw things at the police.
GREGORY MORENO, Mexican American Bar Association: The police officers don't respect, they have no reverence for Hispanic life.
SPOKESPERSON: It is no wonder people are saying they got what they deserve.
JEFFREY KAYE: Monday's incident, reminiscent of the Rodney King beating five years ago, followed a high-speed police pursuit. According to police, a pick-up truck carrying illegal immigrants came across the border evading a checkpoint and later led Riverside County sheriff's deputies on an 80-mile chase. When the truck pulled over, passengers scattered. Videotape shot by local television stations showed deputies beating a man and a woman with night sticks. Another man claims to have been beaten off-camera. The tape shows the woman was pulled by her hair. Her head was slammed into the hood. She was thrown to the ground and kicked. Other deputies chased down the fleeing passengers. In all, 19 were taken into custody and turned over to Immigration officials. The story has received prominent attention in the Spanish language media, and it became an international incident when the Mexican government officially protested what it considered a human rights violation of its citizens.
JOSE ANGEL PESCADOR, Consul General, Mexico: We are also going to demand permanently the full respect of human rights and the dignity of Mexicans who arrive to this country with or without documents, and most important, we are going to pursue this according to the laws of this country, of our country, but specifically in accordance to the international law.
JEFFREY KAYE: The two deputies involved in the beating have been suspended with pay, pending an investigation. Riverside County Sheriff's Department Spokesman Sgt. Mark Lohman said the tape appears to show improper behavior.
SGT. MARK LOHMAN, Riverside County Sheriff's Dept.: When we originally saw the video, we were, we were very concerned about it. And the sheriff yesterday said that it was apparent it was excessive force. Now when we're talking about the video, we're just talking about one aspect of the investigation, which we can't, you know, make a total judgment on the incident just based on one part, being the video. We need to put many other things into place, statements from the officers, statements from witnesses, statements from officers who were also at the scene, in conjunction with that videotape, before we can make a final determination.
JEFFREY KAYE: A police union official said too many are judging the suspended deputies before the full facts are in. Daniel Swift, president of the Riverside Sheriffs' Association, said the deputies' actions might have been justified.
DEPUTY DANIEL SWIFT, Riverside Sheriffs' Association: My understanding and according to the news reports are these people were deliberately trying to ram other vehicles on a freeway at high speeds, multiple counts of assault with a deadly weapon. One car was side-swiped. They were throwing objects out of their vehicle at the sheriff's deputies, at the other cars, endangering everybody on the freeway. I'm sure you drive on the freeway. What's it like to hit an object at sixty-five, seventy miles an hour? You know, a lot of people don't survive that kind of impact. And yet, these people are doing that all in an effort to evade lawful arrest.
JEFFREY KAYE: Had the officers in question been hit by any objects or their vehicle hit by any objects from the truck?
DEPUTY DANIEL SWIFT: I don't know.
JEFFREY KAYE: The videotapes show only the end of the chase and don't indicate whether the passengers threw anything at the sheriffs. The pictures do show that somehow the camper's shell became detached during the pursuit. The Mexican nationals were released Wednesday. Yesterday at a press conference at the Mexican consulate, those who spoke denied throwing anything at police officers.
MAN: Oh, no.
JEFFREY KAYE: The men said they came here only to work. Lawyers for two of the men who say they were beaten have filed a claim for more than $10 million. The woman who was struck, Alicia Sotero Vasquez, said she feared for her life. After being released from detention, she was hospitalized.
ALICIA SOTERO VASQUEZ: (speaking through interpreter) They beat me worse than an animal. I didn't run, nothing. They took me by the hair. I didn't insult them. I didn't say anything to them.
JEFFREY KAYE: Many Latino activists have complained that the beatings are part of a pattern of abuse by police officials.
MOISES ESCALANTE, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights: Community is mad. Community is tired of this situation. We been having so many situations like this happen. People were beat up because they looked immigrant.
JEFFREY KAYE: But Latino activists were not the only ones to insist the incident showed a disturbing pattern. The episode has fueled California's continuing debate over illegal immigration, and groups that say the U.S. should better control its borders, attempted to shift the focus from the sheriff's deputies to the illegal immigrants.
BARBARA COE, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights: These people are common criminals and any effort to portray them as victims or harmless or pitiful after they took actions that jeopardized the very lives of innocent people is unconscionable.
JEFFREY KAYE: The 19 Mexican nationals will be allowed to remain the country for a long as six months as state and federal investigations into the incident continue.