By Darrell Smith
The pepper-spraying of students by UC Davis police officers last November was not criminal conduct, Yolo County District Attorney's office concluded Wednesday following an inquiry into officers' response to protestors on the campus.
"(V)iewing the incident through the totality of the circumstances, there is insufficient evidence to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the use of force involved in the November 18, 2011, pepper spraying was unlawful and therefore warrants the filing of criminal charges," officials said in a statement announcing the report's findings.
The response by campus police clad in riot gear last Nov. 18, punctuated by the image of police Lt. John Pike calmly pepper-spraying seated student protestors, was met with international scorn.
Pike was later relieved of duty; his police chief, Annette Spicuzza, resigned under fire; and withering reports from a specially-convened task force led by former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso and independent consultant, Kroll, detailed a dysfunctional police department and "systematic and repeated failures" by university leaders.
Pike said he had not heard of the decision by the DA, but added that he was "extremely relieved."
"I have not reviewed or seen their report, but I am relieved at knowing they are not going to be bringing any charges," he said.
UC Davis officials had no official comment on the report Wednesday, saying the District Attorney's report stood on its own.
Alexis Briggs, San Francisco-based attorney for the Davis Dozen, the Occupy-style protestors who face charges in Yolo Superior Court related to demonstrations at a campus U.S. Bank branch in February and March, and whose clients include students who said they were pepper-sprayed, was dismayed by the report's findings.
"I guess the Reynoso report, the Kroll report and video is sufficient in some cases but not in others. I'm sorry to hear that," Briggs said. "There seems to be a willingness to rely on video evidence in some cases but not others. My thoughts go back to the day itself," she said, adding the events "cast doubt that Lt. Pike and others were acting lawfully."
Unversity of California regents last week approved a settlement providing compensation to 21 students and former students struck with pepper spray in the November 2011 incident. The incident has cost University of Calfornia, Davis more than $1 million in legal and other fees.
Bee staff writer Sam Stanton contributed to this report.