Pepper-Spraying Policeman Departs U.C.-Davis
Video footage of Nov. 2011 incident went viral online, provoking criticism of school authorities
CNN Wire Staff
August 01, 2012(CNN) -- A campus police officer who sprayed seated protesters with pepper spray during a police attempt to clear out an Occupy encampment at the University of California Davis last year no longer works at the school, a university spokeswoman said.
But she declined to specify whether the officer, Lt. John Pike, quit or was let go.
"We can confirm he is no longer employed as of today ... but we cannot confirm anything else because of privacy guidelines," said Claudia Morain, News Service Director at U.C. Davis.
Video footage of Pike spraying student demonstrators in November 2011 with the irritant at close range went viral online, provoking widespread criticism of school authorities and making him the brunt of Internet ridicule.
The group of about a dozen protesters had sat down on a path with their arms interlocked as the police moved in to clear out the Occupy encampment. Police officers forcibly removed the demonstrators after they had been sprayed.
UC-Davis placed Pike, a second officer and Campus Police Chief Annette Spicuzza on administrative leave after the incident.
The pepper-spraying was an "objectively unreasonable" use of force by the campus police, a 190-page report by a University of California task force said in April.
The report also accused Pike of misusing his now-iconic weapon. The bright red pepper-spray canister he brandished to the crowd before discharging was "not an authorized weapon" under campus police guidelines, and "is a higher pressure type of pepper spray than what officers normally carry on their utility belts."
It was designed to be used at a distance of at least six feet. "And Lt. Pike did not use it correctly," the report found.
The task force also blamed members of the UC-Davis leadership, citing "systemic and repeated failures" among campus administrators that "put officers in the unfortunate situation in which they found themselves."
It described the campus police command structure as "very dysfunctional," with Spicuzza's lieutenants refusing to follow orders and getting into "heated exchanges" with the chief during the protests.
But Pike was primarily responsible for the "objectively unreasonable decision" to pepper-spray the demonstrators, it concluded.
Pranksters across the Internet have inserted the image of the helmeted policeman into famous paintings, photos and movie scenes, while the hacking collective Anonymous published his home and cell phone numbers online.