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Too early to condemn UC Davis police for pepper spray, ex-sheriff says

November 22, 2011 |  4:41 am


Some people are urging the public to avoid a rush to judgment against UC Davis police officers who used pepper spray on Occupy protesters last week.

"I think it's foolish at this point frankly to rush to a hasty conclusion,"  John McGinness, a former Sacramento County sheriff, told Fox 40 Sacramento.

Videos of the police action has spark widespread outrage because those being pepper sprayed were seated peacefully. But some note other videos from that day showing a more tense atmosphere between police and protesters.

During a tense speech Monday before more than 1,000 students and faculty members on the normally quiet Central Valley campus' main quad, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi tried to quell criticism over the incident, as well as how university officials handled the aftermath.


"I am here to apologize," an emotional Katehi said after struggling through the crowd to a small stage where some of the students who'd been pepper-sprayed had just described their ordeal. "I feel horrible for what happened."

The chancellor's appearance drew dueling boos and cries of "Let her speak!"

The Friday incident, captured in videos that quickly went viral on the Internet, has triggered nationwide controversy about the forceful response by university police to student protesters. The Occupy Wall Street movement in recent weeks has spilled onto college campuses, combining with student anger over rising tuition and cuts to higher education to produce protests and sit-ins.

Katehi announced Monday that she had put campus Police Chief Annette Spicuzza on administrative leave, an effort to restore peace to the 32,000-student public university. Two officers involved in the spraying, in which students were hit in the face as they sat quietly with arms linked, were put on paid leave over the weekend.

Katehi has said that she ordered protesters' tents removed but had not authorized police to use the chemical spray in the manner shown on the videos. Campus spokesman Andy Fell on Monday declined to comment on who gave that order, saying it would be looked at by investigators.


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--Shelby Grad, Maria L. LaGanga and Larry Gordon