EPD uses Taser on student; action under investigation

Eugene police used a Taser stun gun on at least one University student in an incident last month that did not lead to an arrest.

An investigation is underway to determine whether the Taser use was warranted.

Eugene resident Carol Berg-Caldwell attended the Tuesday meeting of the Human Rights Commission, where she said city councilor George Brown told attendees about last month’s incident involving two University “foreign exchange students,” where the Taser was used.

The incident occurred at an apartment complex in the West University neighborhood, which is in Brown’s ward, Berg-Caldwell said. Property managers called police after mistaking the students for trespassers, Brown told the group.

Berg-Caldwell said the students are seeking the legal assistance of defense attorney Laura Fine, who represented former University student Ian Van Ornum in the misdemeanor trial last spring where he was found guilty of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Eugene police officer Judd Warden tasered Van Ornum twice during the then-student’s arrest following a downtown anti-pesticide rally in May 2008.

Police Chief Pete Kerns has issued preliminary approval of Warden’s Taser use in the incident with Van Ornum.

Police auditor Mark Gissiner said police responded to the report of trespassing last month, but learned at the scene that the students were residents of the apartment complex.

“(Allegedly) the assistant property manager had leased the place to (the students) earlier that day, so once it was found out that that was the case, the individuals were uncuffed,” Gissiner said.

Police made no arrests.

Eugene Police Department officials did not return requests for comment by press time Thursday.

Gissiner said no investigative interviews have been conducted yet. The investigation has been stalled by the need to employ a translator of the students’ first language, Gissiner said.

If the officer is found to have used the Taser inappropriately, any disciplinary action will be determined by the police chief.

Gissiner said he hopes this investigation progresses more quickly than the Van Ornum case did.

“Of course we want to do it thoroughly and completely,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to wrap this up in a month or two.”

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