Sunday, March 1, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Pepper-spraying pair no longer UCD officers

UC Davis police Lt. John Pike pepper-sprays Occupy UC Davis protesters on Nov. 18 on the campus Quad. Pike, who was on paid leave for eight months, is no longer employed by the university, campus officials said Wedneday. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

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From page A1 | August 01, 2012 |

The UC Davis police lieutenant who became the target of a worldwide outcry, John Pike, and a second officer who doused Occupy UC Davis protesters with pepper spray, Alexander Lee, are no longer employed by the university.

In response to repeated Enterprise inquiries about Pike’s job status, UCD spokeswoman Claudia Morain said Pike was no longer an officer as of Wednesday. She declined to say if Pike was fired or resigned, citing state law and university policies protecting the confidentiality of personnel decisions.

Pike, whose annual salary was $121,680, remained on paid leave for eight months after the Nov. 18 incident. He will receive no other payout from the university, Morain said. He remains entitled to retirement benefits.

The employment of the second suspended officer, who earned $57,060 per year, ended July 11, Morain said. The university has not revealed his identity, pending the outcome of an ongoing court case. The Enterprise has named Lee based on still photographs, video and university documents.

The Enterprise was unable to reach Pike for comment.

A task force headed by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso and an outside security firm, Kroll Associates, found that Pike’s decision to spray seated, unarmed protesters unwarranted.

Though onlookers and some protesters had partially encircled police on the Quad, none acted against an officer, the task force found. Officers also were able to move through the crowd without incident, one with cuffed protesters, and Pike himself stepped around and over the seated protesters.

The pepper spray Pike used, MK-9, also was not sanctioned for use by the department and officers were not trained in its use. In addition, Pike used it incorrectly by spraying protesters from close range, according to the report, and ordered Lee forward to spray protesters.

The task force and Kroll reports, which placed blame on Chancellor Linda Katehi and other top campus decision-makers as much as on police, painted a complicated portrait of Pike.

He and another lieutenant had a heated disagreement with then-Chief Annette Spicuzza, questioning the legal rationale for removing a small Occupy encampment on the Quad. Pike reportedly grew so disgusted that he walked out on the discussion, according to the Kroll report.

Once on the Quad with about 35 officers, another lieutenant acting as incident commander effectively turned over his authority to Pike. Spicuzza, who was on the scene, relayed orders by cell phone, which investigators said further confused matters.

The scene quickly turned tense and chaotic. With dozens of students looking on, camera phones in hand, about a dozen protesters sat down and blocked a sidewalk along which Pike planned to have officers use to lead out some of the 10 protesters arrested.

Pike ordered the students to move. They did not.

He shook the pepper spray, then walked side to side spraying them.

“Oh my God,” Pike later said at the police station, according to the Kroll report. “I hope I’m not the scapegoat for this one … it was really bad out there.”

Pike and Lee were among those who did not speak to investigators, who lacked subpoena power, as part of a deal with the police union.

Spicuzza later retired. She has declined to speak about the incident in detail.

A Yolo County District Attorney’s Office investigation of what happened remains ongoing. Protesters also have filed a federal lawsuit against Pike and the other officers, the police department, the university and many of its leaders.

As still photographs and amateur video of the pepper-spraying went viral online in the hours after the incident, hackers posted Pike’s personal information on the Internet.

He received scores of threatening text, voice mail and email messages that Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo found so chilling that he ruled against releasing the names of other officers at the scene.

In a court case since brought by the Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times, Grillo has changed course and said all of the names in the reports should be made public. The Federated University Police Officers Association has appealed that ruling.

Pike also became the subject of a mocking Internet meme — the image of him with the red canister of pepper spray pasted into famous art and photographs.

For some, Pike became the definitive image of the Occupy movement, with protesters decrying economic and political power in the hands of a relative few and police responding with heavy-handed tactics.

At UCD, students also were protesting tuition increases as well as UC Berkeley police striking student and faculty protesters with batons just days before.

A former Marine sergeant, Pike had 17 years of law enforcement experience at the time of the incident. Hired by UCD in 2001, he was twice honored for bravery by the department, including once for protecting fellow officers from being stabbed by a UCD Medical Center patient.

Pike also was identified by a former colleague, Calvin Chang, who is gay and Asian-American, as using a homophobic slur. Chang’s 2005 harassment and discrimination suit against the department for that and other actions was settled out of court.

— Reach Cory Golden at [email protected] or (530) 747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden

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Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter. http://about.me/cory_golden
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