UCLA Police Taser Student in Library
From the UCLA 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
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
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
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
"The Taser can be incredibly violent and result in death,"
According to an ACLU report, 148 people in the United States
and Canada have died as a result of the use of Tasers since
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 â€" 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
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
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
"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.
- Sara Taylor Copyright 2006 ASUCLA Student Media.