Police Lt. John Pike uses pepper spray to move protesters (photo: Wayne Tilcock, Associated Press)
The ex-campus cop who was fired for casually pepper spraying a group of protesters at the University of California, Davis in November 2011 while they sat docilely on the ground has been awarded $38,059 in workers’ compensation for his ensuing ordeal.
The 21 students and alumni who got a faceful of abuse from John Pike each received a settlement of $30,000, $8,000 less than him. Another 15 claimants received an average of $6,666 apiece.
Bernie Goldsmith, a local lawyer not attached to the case, told The DavisEnterprise that the settlement between the university and Pike “sends a clear message to the next officer nervously facing off with a group of passive, unarmed students: Go on ahead. Brutalize them. Trample their rights. You will be well taken care of.”
Pike and at least one other officer pepper-sprayed students and other Occupy UC Davis protesters while they sat with locked arms. The protesters had ignored police orders to disperse. A video of the incident went viral on the Internet, prompting international criticism of the confrontation, the university’s handing of it and the aftermath.
An internal affairs investigation initially found that Pike had acted reasonably and recommended that any punishment not exceed a demotion or suspension, according to the Sacramento Bee. But UC Davis Police Chief Matthew Carmichael fired him anyway.
Pike was the subject of continuous abuse after the incident, receiving 10,000 text messages, 17,000 emails and “numerous items being ordered delivered to his home.” Hackers posted his personal information online and he was reportedly the subject of death threats.
Psychiatrist Richard Lieberman rated Pike’s disability as “moderate,” based on “continuing and significant internal and external stress with respect to resolving and solving the significant emotional upheavals that have occurred.”
A task force assembled after the incident, led by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, determined that Pike didn’t need to use pepper spray, used a spray not authorized by his department and sprayed the victims from too close a distance. The former Marine and 11-year campus employee made $121,680 a year in his job, according to the Davis Enterprise, and he reportedly will continue to receive his pension.