What Fresh Hell Is This?

November 17, 2006

How is this not abuse?

Perhaps you've already seen this video:

It shows UCLA student Mostafa Tabatabainejad being repeatedly tasered by UCPD police.

His offense? Here's an account of the incident from the Daily Bruin:
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.

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.

[Emphasis added courtesy of Pam's House Blend]
While the article mentiones the student being tasered twice, other student accounts (and the video) indicate as many as six shocks were administered.

According to a later article in the Daily Bruin, Tabatabainejad was also stunned with the Taser when he was already handcuffed.

Also from the Daily Bruin:
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.
The officers claimed that Tabatabainejad deserved the shocks because he was a non-white Muslim he "went limp and refused to exit as the officers attempted to escort him out" and because he ""encouraged library patrons to join his resistance."

There is no evidence of the student encouraging resistance by others on the six minute tape. Eyewitness accounts said that Tabatabainejad repeatedly told officers "I'm not fighting you" and "I said I would leave" as he was being dragged out. They also note that at the beginning of the conflict, he had already logged off the computer, grabbed his backpack and was headed towards the door.

If I understand the officers explanation correctly, it would have been perfectly OK to Taser Gandhi, civil rights lunch counter protestors, or anyone else who display civil disobediance by going limp.

It's a nice world we live in.


Anonymous said...

This is the third time in a short period of time that the LAPD has been caught on tape abusing people. Perhaps the best thing about the proliferation of cameras on phones is that we can catch these bastards abusing their power.

Anonymous said...

First off, it wasn't the LAPD. If you actually read the article, it was the UCPD police, not the LAPD. Nothing like a good knee-jerk reaction to the article without actually reading the facts.

Secondly, just like Rodney King, nothing is mentioned regarding the behavior of the student before the camera phone started rolling. Sounds a lot like the Rodney King incident, huh? Jumping to conclusions while not looking at the bigger picture and all of the facts.

I'm not saying that what they did was right. I want to learn ALL of the facts before I start yelling "racism" and "brutality". Maybe some other people should read up a little more before commenting in blogs.

Everyone loves to bash cops when things like this happen, but when your house is robbed or you're attacked on the street, the first thing you do is dial 911. If the cops are so bad -- and you immediately judge them before learning the facts -- why do you call them when you need help?

Maria said...

Actually, my understanding is that the UCPD are a division of the LAPD.

Anonymous said...


There ya go Maria, that makes it right. You were wrong, why in the hell can't you just admit it?

Jesus woman, none of us are perfect, and that includes YOU.

Justin said...

According to the UCPD website, "UCPD works closely with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and other local law enforcement agencies in a collaborative effort to prevent regional crime and apprehend criminal suspects."

So, UCPD is not part of LAPD, but they work together.

Anonymous said...

This is excessive use of force plain and simple. You can't taser someone multiple times and then tell them to get up. Thats like shooting someone and then telling them to stop screaming in pain or they'll get shot again.

Additionally, the threat by the officer at the end of the clip where he threatens to tase someone who asked for the officer's name and badge number just goes to show how out of control these particular officers are. These guys are either fools or have such poor training they can't handle a situation and end up escalating it. I would hate to think what would happen if it was a real situation. This guy just didn't show his ID when he left the computer lab.