Tasering of student under investigation

Just as the Eugene community began to put one Taser use controversy to rest, another one appears to be brewing.

In an incident last month, Eugene police officers used a Taser on an international University student at an apartment complex on West 11th Avenue.

Eugene police Lt. Doug Mozan said officers were dispatched to the residence where they were “told that there was a history of trespassing (and) that there were possible men trespassing inside.”

The officers arrived to find the scene exactly how it was described to them, Mozan said.

“The officers entered the residence and detained one man,” Mozan said. “The second man — circumstances led to use of the Taser and he was taken into custody.”

Once the officers received the correct information, Mozan said, they released both men, who knew limited English, from custody.

An investigation is underway to determine whether the use of a Taser was warranted in an incident riddled with misunderstanding.The students were part of American English Institute, a program through the University aimed at teaching international students English.

“The goal of that program is to get their English language skills to a point to meet requirements to enroll in classes,” Director of Media Relations Julie Brown said.

University officials and AEI directors were notified quickly, and helped put the students in touch with legal services and resources like the University Health Center and counseling, Brown said.
Ilona Koleszar, an attorney from Student Legal Services, is representing the students and said the students face an additional challenge in the situation because they are new to the U.S.

“Imagine if you were an international student who doesn’t know English,” she said. “It’s a little frightening to these guys.”

Koleszar is advising the students not to speak with anyone during the investigation process.

In May 2008, then-University student Ian Van Ornum was shocked twice by Eugene police officers by a Taser, leading to two investigations. Earlier this month the Civilian Review Board ruled that the Taser use was compliant with policy.

“This is a community struggling with Taser use policy,” Koleszar said. “It’s going to be a while for this to be figured out. This case with the international students comes very quickly after the wounds of the Van Ornum case.”

Koleszar emphasized the importance of the investigation process so that there is no turmoil within the community.

“I’m doing my part to make this run as smoothly, seamlessly and perfectly as possible,” she said. “With the conclusion, whatever it ends up being, I want the process to have been full of integrity.”

Eugene City Councilor George Brown is on the city’s police commission which is reviewing the current police Taser policy and represents the section of the city where the incident occurred.

“I’m one of those people who wants to help improve the relationship between police and citizens,” Brown said. “Hopefully we will find out, how did this thing go from a total misunderstanding, how did it keep escalating out of control, to one of the kids getting tased?”

As a member of the Eugene Police Commission, Brown understands the use of Tasers as an alternative to deadly force, but questions their use by Eugene police.

“They are being used (as) pain compliance tools: ‘This guy’s not listening to me, which doesn’t warrant using a gun, so I’m going to Taser him and get him too,'” he said. “This is a major area of concern. Most review boards and commissions put it down as a need for more training.”

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