Donald Rickman still had a bruised and sore back, swollen wrists and a cut on his left cheek yesterday evening as reminders of a bizarre incident 48 hours earlier in which he, his wife and two sons say they were beaten in the front yard of their home by Fairfax County police.

Rickman, 52, says he was clubbed in the head and shoulders, held handcuffed over a fence and punched several times in the face and slammed into the hood of a patrol car by a policeman after he tried to stop the officer from assaulting Rickman's wife, Arline, 55, who recently underwent gall bladder surgery.

The two policemen involved, Officers James Cavender and Jerry L. Bowers, say it was they - not the family - who were the assault victims.

Their written report claims Cavender was punched in the chest by Arline Rickman and Bowers was punched in the head by Donald Rickman and choked by Donald Rickman's stepson, Daniel Mancini.

Police arrested and charged all three with assault and obstruction of justice. The Rickmans' son Tomothy, 20, who police claim triggered the incident by taunting Officer Cavender, was charged with those two counts, plus driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest.

It all started about 10:30 Friday night when Tim Rickman and a girlfriend were driving home to the Rickman house on Memorial Street in the quiet, middle-class Alexandria section of Fiarfax.

Tim Rickman says he flashed his bright lights and honked at a Fairfax patrol car that was driving 38 miles an hour in a 25 mph zone. When he pulled into his driveway, Rickman says, he was surprised to find the patrol car behind him.

"First [the officer] said "What's the problem?"" Rickman recalled yesterday. "And I said: "You were doing 38 in a 25 zone." And he said "Come here, son," and I said "No sir"."

At which point Cavender left his car and grabbed Rickman by the shirt, according to Rickman, who proceeded to yell for help.

The Rickmans, who were playing cards with Donald's brother and sister-in-law and two neighbors, heard Tim's cries. So did Daniel Mancini, who lives next door.

They came out - in their stocking feet - to find Cavender attempting to drag Tim Rickman to the patrol car. The Rickmans and other witness say that when Arline Rickman asked why her son was being arrested, Cavender told her to keep quiet.

"After he had Timmy handcuffed, he still wuldn't tell us why he was arresting him," says Arline Rickman. "He had Timmy's arms behind his back and he was jerking them up and it was hurting."

What happened next is in dispute. Cavendera says in his report that Arline Rickman punched him in the chest. She says she merely tried to pull Tim's arms down and never hit the policeman.

In either event, witnesses say Officer Bowers, who had just entered the driveway, told Arline Rickman she was under arrest, grabbed her by the arms and started dragging her off despite warnings from her husband and others about her gall bladder operation.

When Bowers did not respond to repeated warnings, Donald Rickman says, he punched Bowers in the head. Rickman and other witnesses say Bowers then hit him twice with a billy club, tightly handcuffed his arms behind his back, held him over a four-foot-high chain-link fence and punched him in the face several times.

Witnesses say the officer then ran Rickman down to the end of his driveway where he was slammed into the hood of a patrol car.

Neither Bowers nor Cavender was available for comment yesterday. The two officers' written report states that Bowers was punched in the head by Donald Rickman and held by Daniel Mancini while Rickman tried to choke him. It makes no mention of any assault on Rickman.

While police struggled with his parents, Tim Rickman ran away in handcuffs. He later returned to the scene voluntarily, but not until after police had searched the Rickman house.

Witnesses say the incident ended in 15 minutes.

"It was a real nightmare," said Wallace Rickman, Donald's brother, who is a vice president of the National Bank of Washington. "The officers just lost complete control of their tempers."

Said neighbor Charles Rice, who also witnessed the incident: "It was like watching an old war movie about the Gestapo."

Rice called Springfield lawyer William Schmidt, who helped arrange bail for the four family members. They were released from a holding facility at the Groveton police substation at around 2 a.m. Saturday. They are to appear in court Oct. 12 for trials.

Schimidt says the family is considering filing brutality complaints against the police but probably will not take any action until after the October hearing.

Fairfax police spokesman Warren Carmichael said the department has not started an investigation into the incident.

"If these people decide to make a complaint, obviously it will be investigated," said Carmichael.

Donald Rickman, a self-employed housing subcontractor who had never been arrested before, blamed the incident on the inability of the police to remain calm.

"They just went crazy," he said. "And if they do is to people like us, imagine what they do to young people."

And his son Tim said he has learned a lesson: "The next time I see a police car speeding, I think I'll just leave it alone." CAPTION: Picture, Donald Rickman, his wife and Daniel Mancini in Rickman home. Arline Rickman shows bruised arm. By Fred Sweets - The Washington Post