Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Friday, November 17, 2006

Videos and verdicts

Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23 and a senior at UCLA announced plans to file a law suit, through his attorney, Stephen Yagman, according to a Los Angeles Times article published today.

Man stunned by UCLA police plans to sue

Both Tabatabainejad, who is Iranian-American, and his attorney alleged that UCLA officers used excessive force when they tased the young man five times at the campus's library on Nov. 14, because he would not produce a photo identification card on request. Yagman called the incident, profiling by the officers that was done based on his client's Middle-Eastern appearance.

The tasing was captured on a web phone and transmitted around the world, through the media and via a YouTube Web site. The incident has sparked protest at UCLA including a planned demonstration today.

In a prepared statement released late Thursday, UCLA's interim chancellor, Norman Abrams, urged the public to "withhold judgment" while the campus police department investigates.

"I, too, have watched the videos, and I do not believe that one can make a fair judgment regarding the matter from the videos alone. I am encouraged that a number of witnesses have come forward and are participating in the investigation."

The UCLA Daily Bruin's article on the incident provides a detailed account of what took place, when community service officers performed what the article called a "random" ID check on Tabatabainejad.

The CSOs left, returning minutes later, and police officers arrived to escort the student out. By this time the student had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack when an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, at which point the student told the officer to let him go. A second officer then approached the student as well. The student began to yell "get off me," repeating himself several times. It was at this point that the officers shot the student with a Taser for the first time, causing him to fall to the floor and cry out in pain.

The student also told the officers he had a medical condition. UCPD officers confirmed that the man involved in the incident was a student, but did not give a name or any additional information about his identity.

Video shot from a student's camera phone captured the student yelling, "Here's your Patriot Act, here's your fucking abuse of power," while he struggled with the officers. As the student was screaming, UCPD officers repeatedly told him to stand up and said "stop fighting us."

The student did not stand up as the officers requested and they shot him with the Taser at least once more

. "It was the most disgusting and vile act I had ever seen in my life," said David Remesnitsky, a 2006 UCLA alumnus who witnessed the incident.

As the student and the officers were struggling, bystanders repeatedly asked the police officers to stop, and at one point officers told the gathered crowd to stand back and threatened to use a Taser on anyone who got too close. Laila Gordy, a fourth-year economics student who was present in the library during the incident, said police officers threatened to shoot her with a Taser when she asked an officer for his name and his badge number.

Gordy was visibly upset by the incident and said other students were also disturbed.

"It's a shock that something like this can happen at UCLA," she said. "It was unnecessary what they did."

Another witness who was interviewed by NBC agreed.

"Any student who witnessed it was left with an image you don't want to remember," said a witness who asked not to be identified.

When asked whether the student resisted when officer attempted to escort him from the building, the witness said, "In the beginning, no. But when they were holding onto him and they were on the ground, he was trying to just break free. He was saying, 'I'm leaving, I'm leaving.' It was so disturbing to watch that I cannot be concise on that. I can just say that he was willing to leave. He had his backpack on his shoulder and he was walking out when the cops approached him. It was unnecessary."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations-Los Angeles director, Hussam Ayloush said that his organization was very concerned about the incident.

"It is hard to see the justification for repeatedly using pain-inducing weapons on a person who was apparently not a threat to any officer or student. We call on state and national authorities, including the FBI, to launch an independent investigation of this disturbing incident. Given the circumstances involved, only an outside, independent probe will ensure that the civil rights aspects of this case are being taken seriously and will be addressed in an impartial manner."

UCLA finally responded via its media relations division here.

Date: November 17, 2006
Contact: Office of Media Relations ( )
Phone: 310-825-2585

Updated Statement from Chancellor Abrams About the Incident at Powell Library

A number of students, parents and members of the public have contacted me to express their concern about Tuesday evening's incident in which university police took a student into custody at Powell Library. Since the incident, I have been in close contact with the chief of police and have asked that the investigation into the actions of all involved move at the quickest pace possible without sacrificing fairness.

I am committed to our country's system of due process — which counsels us not to rush to judgment. It would be best if everyone, within and without the university, would withhold judgment pending review of the matter. I, too, have watched the videos, and I do not believe that one can make a fair judgment regarding the matter from the videos alone. I am encouraged that a number of witnesses have come forward and are participating in the investigation.

To parents who are concerned about the safety of their children at the university, student safety and treatment are of paramount concern at UCLA. Indeed, this incident arose out of a university policy that is designed to ensure student safety, which requires persons in the library after 11:00 p.m. to be prepared to identify themselves.

There are conflicting reports of what transpired in this matter. I am confident that the review process underway will lead to a complete and accurate story of what took place. We must let the fact-finding process take its course.

In another article published by the Daily Bruin, there were more details released and more response from the UCLA community.

"I realize when looking at these kind of arrest tapes that they don't always show the full picture. ... But that six minutes that we can watch just seems like it's a ridiculous amount of force for someone being escorted because they forgot their BruinCard," said Ali Ghandour, a fourth-year anthropology student.

"It certainly makes you wonder if something as small as forgetting your BruinCard can eventually lead to getting Tased several times in front of the library," he added.

Edouard Tchertchian, a third-year mathematics student, said he was concerned that the student was not offered any other means of showing that he was a UCLA student.


NBC's links to video

UCLA Daily Bruin article

The American Muslim article on CAIR-L.A. call for probe

Council on American-Islamic Relations press release

Life continues on in Riverside, where tasers have played critical roles in the deaths of two Black men. They did not die from being tased by the devices, but because they had allegedly grabbed them from the possession of police officers before they were shot to death by the police. Both of those onduty shootings are currently being investigated by the Riverside Police Department and the Community Police Review Commission.

The city council has also decided to forgo its appeal of the huge jury verdict awarded to Black officer, Roger Sutton after his racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation law suit filed in 2000 finally made it to trial.

City drops appeal, pays out settlement

"I am relieved this is finally over," Sutton said in a statement released Thursday. "Hopefully, my case encourages the department to apply equal standards of justice to its officers and not to lash out at officers when they protest unfair treatment."

His attorney, Scott Silverman responded as well.

The settlement announced Thursday "sends a message that Riverside police need to take racial discrimination and harassment seriously," Scott Silverman, Sutton's attorney, said in a statement.

The city's attorneys did not respond.

Sutton will receive $1.64 million and $67,103 in other costs. His attorneys will receive $825,000 in fees, which will put the city and its insurance carriers out over $2.5 million.

What the city will receive instead is this message, racism costs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Friday, November 17, 2006 9:24:00 PM  
Blogger Five Before Midnight said...

Dear Anonymous:

Yes, I definitely agree. The city appears to be clueless on this issue, along with several others. This probably makes its risk management division very nervous.

Have a nice evening,

Friday, November 17, 2006 10:46:00 PM  

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