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U.C. Davis leader says she did not want use of force

By Garance Burke and Judy Lin

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 22 2011 11:58 p.m. MST

FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2011 file photo, University of California, Davis Police Lt. John Pike uses pepper spray to move Occupy UC Davis protesters while blocking their exit from the school's quad in Davis, Calif. Pike, the riot-clad police officer who pepper sprayed a row of peaceful Occupy Wall Street protesters at a California university last week, is a retired U.S. Marine sergeant twice honored for his police work on campus. (AP Photo/The Enterprise, Wayne Tilcock, File)

Associated Press

DAVIS, Calif. — The University of California, Davis, chancellor defended herself Tuesday from criticism over the campus police force's pepper spraying of peaceful demonstrators as information emerged about the officer at the heart of the incident.

Video footage of Lt. John Pike and another officer clad in riot gear casually spraying an orange cloud at the heads of protesters who were sitting peacefully on the ground has sparked national outrage since it began circulating online Friday night. Students gathered on campus Tuesday for the second time in as many days to condemn the violence and urged university officials to require police to attend sensitivity training.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, who has faced criticism from students over Friday's incident, defended herself during a town hall meeting Tuesday night. She told an auditorium filled with a little more than 1,000 students that she asked police to remove tents from the university's quad but did not direct them to forcibly remove the demonstrators.

"I explicitly directed the chief of police that violence should be avoided at all costs," she said. "It was the absolute last thing I ever wanted to happen."

She stressed that students have a right to demonstrate peacefully.

"Because encampments have long been prohibited by UC policy, I directed police only to take down the tents," she said. "My instructions were for no arrests and no police force."

Pike, another officer and the campus police chief have been placed on paid administrative leave in the wake of an incident that has generated international attention for the 32,000-student campus just west of the state capital, the third most populous in the UC system behind the campuses in Los Angeles and Berkeley.

Not all students who attended the town hall in a performing arts complex were satisfied with the response from Katehi, who attended a rally on campus Monday and apologized to students. Puneet Kamal, 22, an environmental science and policy major, was among those lined up to ask questions Tuesday.

"She didn't say 'I'm sorry that I did this, or I'm sorry I made this call,'" Kamal said. "She said 'I'm sorry that this situation had to happen.' Where's the blame going to?"

Natalie Poulton, 20, a communications major, said Katehi has not fully explained what she knew in advance about the police plans for clearing out protesters.

"I want more answers," said Poulton. "She totally didn't explain if there was a miscommunication with the cops and what exactly happened in terms of the higher-ups."

Pike, one of the officers who sprayed the students, is a retired Marine sergeant who has been honored for his police work on campus, but he also figured in a discrimination lawsuit against the university.

He has risen swiftly through the ranks of the UC Davis police force over the last decade. As one of four lieutenants, the 39-year-old supervises more than one-third of the sworn officers, including the investigations unit.

He has twice been honored by the university for exceptional police work, including a 2006 incident in which he tackled a scissor-wielding hospital patient who was threatening fellow officers. Afterward, he said he decided against using pepper spray because it might harm his colleagues or other hospital patients.

But an alleged anti-gay slur by Pike also figured in a racial and sexual discrimination lawsuit a former police officer filed against the department, which ended in a $240,000 settlement in 2008. Officer Calvin Chang's 2003 discrimination complaint against the university's police chief and the UC Board of Regents alleged he was systematically marginalized as the result of anti-gay and racist attitudes on the force, and he specifically claimed Pike described him using a profane anti-gay epithet.

Katehi identified Pike as one of the officers involved in the pepper-spray incident in an interview with the campus television station Sunday, and university communications staff confirmed his role Tuesday.

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