Where forth art thou?: UCPD Police used taser on UCLA student in Powell

Saturday, November 18, 2006

UCPD Police used taser on UCLA student in Powell

xialanxue - I wonder why nobody asked Bush about this incident when he visited Singapore on Thursday. Would love to hear what he has to say.

Daily Bruin - An incident late Tuesday night in which a UCLA student was stunned at least four times with a Taser has left the UCLA community questioning whether the university police officers' use of force was an appropriate response to the situation.

Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a UCLA student, was repeatedly stunned with a Taser and then taken into custody when he did not exit the CLICC Lab in Powell Library in a timely manner. Community Service Officers had asked Tabatabainejad to leave after he failed to produce his BruinCard during a random check at around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

UCPD Assistant Chief of Police Jeff Young said the checks are a standard procedure in the library after 11 p.m.

"Because of the safety of the students we limit the use after 11 to just students, staff and faculty," Young said.

Young said the CSOs on duty in the library at the time went to get UCPD officers when Tabatabainejad did not immediately leave, and UCPD officers resorted to use of the Taser when Tabatabainejad did not do as he was told.

A six-minute video showed Tabatabainejad audibly screaming in pain as he was stunned several times with a Taser, each time for three to five seconds. He was told repeatedly to stand up and stop fighting, and was told that if he did not do so he would "get Tased again."

Tabatabainejad was also stunned with the Taser when he was already handcuffed, said Carlos Zaragoza, a third-year English and history student who witnessed the incident.

"(He was) no possible danger to any of the police," Zaragoza said. "(He was) getting shocked and Tasered as he was handcuffed."

But Young said at the time the police likely had no way of knowing whether the individual was armed or that he was a student.

As Tabatabainejad was being dragged through the room by two officers, he repeated in a strained scream, "I'm not fighting you" and "I said I would leave."

The officers used the "drive stun" setting in the Taser, which delivers a shock to a specific part of the body with the front of the Taser, Young said.

A Taser delivers volts of low-amperage energy to the body, causing a disruption of the body's electrical energy pulses and locking the muscles, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"It's an electrical shock. ... It causes pain," Young said, adding that the drive stun would not likely demobilize a person or cause residual pain after the shock was administered. Young also said a Taser is less forceful than a baton, for example.

But according to a study published in the Lancet Medical Journal in 2001, a charge of three to five seconds can result in immobilization for five to 15 minutes, which would mean that Tabatabainejad could have been physically unable to stand when the officers demanded that he do so.

"It is a real mistake to treat a Taser as some benign thing that painlessly brings people under control," said Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.

"The Taser can be incredibly violent and result in death," Eliasberg said.

According to an ACLU report, 148 people in the United States and Canada have died as a result of the use of Tasers since 1999.

During the altercation between Tabatabainejad and the officers, bystanders can be heard in the video repeatedly asking the officers to stop and requesting their names and identification numbers. The video showed one officer responding to a student by threatening that the student would "get Tased too." At this point, the officer was still holding a Taser.

Such a threat of the use of force by a law enforcement officer in response to a request for a badge number is an "illegal assault," Eliasberg said.

"It is absolutely illegal to threaten anyone who asks for a badge รข€" that's assault," he said.

Tabatabainejad was released from custody after being given a citation for obstruction/delay of a peace officer in the performance of duty.

Neither Tabatabainejad nor his family were giving interviews Wednesday.

Police officers said they determined the use of Tasers was necessary when Tabatabainejad did not do as they asked.

According to a UCPD press release, Tabatabainejad went limp and refused to exit as the officers attempted to escort him out. The release also stated Tabatabainejad "encouraged library patrons to join his resistance." At this point, the officers "deemed it necessary to use the Taser in a "drive stun' capacity."

"He wasn't cooperative; he wouldn't identify himself. He resisted the officers," Young said.

Neither the video footage nor eyewitness accounts of the events confirmed that Tabatabainejad encouraged resistance, and he repeatedly told the officers he was not fighting and would leave.

Tabatabainejad was walking with his backpack toward the door when he was approached by two UCPD officers, one of whom grabbed the student's arm. In response, Tabatabainejad yelled at the officers to "get off me." Following this demand, Tabatabainejad was stunned with a Taser.

UCPD and the UCLA administration would not comment on the specifics of the incident as it is still under investigation.

In a statement released Wednesday, Interim Chancellor Norman Abrams said investigators were reviewing the situation and the officers' actions.

"I can assure you that these reviews will be thorough, vigorous and fair," Abrams said.

The incident, which Zaragoza described as an example of "police brutality," left many students disturbed.

"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.


Vigilante said...

Since when is it reasonable not to comply to a reasonable request to present identification? I wannabe on this jury when this case comes to trial.

Anonymous said...

Was this reported on the straitstimes or cna? i might have missed it among all the advertisements and commercials..

Jose said...


Can you post a link on your blog to this online petition to ban the use of taser guns by UCPD + have a transparent and independent investigation of the UCLA tasering?

Here's the link:

To read and sign petition, go to: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stoptasersUCPD/

On Tuesday, Nov. 11, several UCPD officers arrested, handcuffed, and repeatedly electrocuted a UCLA student with a taser gun in a UCLA library because he did not show police officers his UCLA ID card and refused to leave the library.

For a video of the incident, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3CdNgoC0cE

The incident shocked those who witnessed the abuse (as can be clearly seen in the video) and those who have seen the video. What happened to this student clearly shows how taser guns lend themselves to police abuse.

Taser guns are dangerous and cruel. Up until this day, over 189 people in the US have died as a result of being shot with a taser gun. In addition, taser guns cause great pain and muscular paralysis on those shot.

Imagine if UC police stopped and tasered every student who forgot to carry around their UC id!

If you are outraged about this incident and would like to do something to improve our UC communities, you can start by signing this petition addressed to UC President Robert Dynes, the UC Regents, and the UC chancellors asking the university administration to do the following:

1. Permanently ban the use of taser guns by the University of California Police Department.
2. Form an independent review board that will investigate the tasering of UCLA student Mostafa Tabatabainejad at Powell Library on Tuesday, November 14, 2006.
3. This independent review board should also review and recommend changes to policies regarding verification of student status by UCPD officers.
4. Consider setting independent review boards in every UC campus with the assigned role of independently investigating serious allegations of police abuse.
5. Extend a formal apology to UCLA student Mostafa Tabatabainejad for the physical and emotional harm done to him that evening.

Please join us in supporting these demands by:

1) Signing the online petition.

Again, to read and sign petition, go to: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stoptasersUCPD/

2) Forwarding this email to as many people in the UC community as you can.

Thank you for joining our call. Together, we can make our UC campuses safer and more peaceful communties.

MarkT said...


The question is not about the reasonableness of the student's refusing to show his id card, but the reasonableness of the UCPD's response to that.

Learn to read before you comment. Tool.