Update at 5:08 p.m. on Friday, July 27: Newly released body camera footage from the Eugene Police Department shows the moments on the night of May 11 when EPD officers drew guns on a KWVA student-DJ Sterling Baraquio and ordered him to the ground during their search for a trespassing suspect in the Erb Memorial Union.
UOPD body camera footage released earlier this week showed a UOPD officer leading Baraquio out of the building to the east entrance of the EMU, explaining that he did not want him to get caught up in the K-9 search that EPD was conducting to find the suspect.
The officer stopped short of the exit that Baraquio was leaving, and about 17 seconds passed before he radioed to the EPD officers outside that Baraquio, an employee, was evacuating, and not a suspect; however, the UOPD officer did not say which doorway Baraquio was exiting.
According to EPD spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin, the officers followed department policies and protocols due to the lack of information that was provided to them, saying that “the officers who encountered [Baraquio] performed as we would have expected them” because “they didn’t know who he was, and based on his movements whether he was the suspect, and whether or not he was armed,” and that the possibility of an unknown individual, who could have been a suspect or potential suspect, exiting the building was “a possibility the officers had to account for.”
EPD body camera footage released Thursday recounts the scene from outside the EMU and shows an EPD officer running to the entrance from across the grass. Although the audio was cut off for the first 30 seconds, the EPD officer recording the interaction shouts for Baraquio to get down on the ground.
According to McLaughlin, EPD officers were not aware which side of the building Baraquio was exiting. McLaughlin wrote in a statement that officers saw Baraquio come out of the building, go back in the building and then reemerge.
“Upon encountering an unknown person exiting a building, and who was moving in a way to draw their suspicions (coming out, going back in, coming out), and who could possibly be a suspect (and potentially armed), they drew their weapons,” McLaughlin wrote.
Although it is not shown on the body camera footage from EPD or UOPD, Baraquio confirmed in an interview with the Emerald on Friday that he did try to re-enter the building.
“I walked out of the building and was going to ask the UOPD officer another question, so I turned around,” he said “As soon as I turned around, that’s when the cops started yelling.”
McLaughlin said the EPD officers approaching the EMU interpreted Baraquio’s movements as suspicious and drew their guns and shouted for Baraquio to get on the ground.
In a May interview with the Emerald, Baraquio described the interaction as “one of the scariest experiences of [his] life.”
“I have never been put in that situation before, or anything close to it,” he said. “Having weapons drawn on me, I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
EPD’s body camera footage shows the UOPD officer coming out of the EMU 10 seconds later to inform the EPD officers that Baraquio was not a suspect. EPD officers immediately told Baraquio to get up and leave.
In the body camera video, the EPD officer recording can be heard confirming on his radio that Baraquio is an employee and “not involved.”
Baraquio then asked the officer, “What am I supposed to do when you’re yelling at me?” to which the officer told Baraquio they thought he could have been a suspect.
“Well somebody broke in so we thought you were involved,” the officer said. “So just for now, boogie out of here man. We’ll get you back in once we clear.”
The officer then turned and walked away from the EMU, and 19 seconds later told the other officer, “That was interesting for a minute. He was turning and like running back in and everything.”
The University of Oregon Police Department released officer body camera footage this Tuesday of a spring term incident during which a student said officers pointed guns at him outside of the EMU. UOPD also released the police report and computer-aided dispatch log from the incident.
This is the first time UOPD has released officer body camera footage. The Emerald filed an appeal with the Lane County district attorney on Monday asking her to disclose the records after UOPD took more than two months to turn over the requested records. Under Oregon Public Records Law, disclosure of body camera footage is appropriate when the “public interest requires disclosure,” and UOPD agreed, writing in a post on its website that it believes “this particular situation to be of heightened public interest to the UO community.”
Overview of the incident
The KWVA incident transpired on the night of May 11, when officers were clearing the EMU because they believed that a trespassing suspect fled into the building to hide from the police. Student-DJ Sterling Baraquio was inside the building in KWVA’s DJ studio at the time.
The body camera footage corroborates Baraquio’s statement that the officer didn’t escort him outside of the building.
The officer entered the radio station, identified himself as a police officer, and yelled for Baraquio to leave. The officer then entered the studio where Baraquio was sitting and told Baraquio to come with him. After leaving, he drew his weapon, which was not pointed at Baraquio. The officer went to the door and called to Baraquio two more times to come with him and told him that he was “not fucking around.”
The officer told Baraquio that there was a possible suspect in the EMU and told him that he needed to go. Baraquio left the radio station in front of the officer with his hands up, and the officer told him that he was not in trouble and that he wanted to make sure Baraquio was not caught up in the K-9 search that was being conducted by the Eugene Police Department.
“Finally he tells me that I’m not being arrested or anything — he’s just escorting me out of the EMU just for precaution because they lost a suspect,” Baraquio said in an interview in May.
The officer instructed Baraquio to leave outside the EMU doors (by the video panel) and apologized to Baraquio for “being gruff” and said that he did not want him to get hurt. When Baraquio asked the officer where to go, he told him to go “as far away as he can get” and recommended that he go to another building and to come back in an hour or so.
Baraquio left the building. The officer waited about 17 seconds to radio the other officers from EPD that were outside the EMU and tell them that the student exiting the building was an employee.
The officer went back to the door and yelled to the EPD officers that Baraquio was an employee and needed to be let through. “You’re good go get past them,” the officer said.
In a previous interview Baraquio told the Emerald it took several minutes for the officer to go back to the door and tell EPD officers that he was a student and not a suspect. Following that interaction, the officer entered the EMU again.
In an interview in May, Baraquio said that after exiting the EMU, the EPD officers waiting outside drew their weapons on him and yelled at him to get on the ground. Due to the Emerald only having the body camera footage from one officer from UOPD, it can only confirm Baraquio’s account that the officer told the officers outside the EMU that Baraquio was not a suspect.The Emerald cannot confirm that EPD mistook Baraquio for a suspect outside of the EMU.
Working to rebuild trust
Following the incident, UOPD said that it launched a formal investigation into the incident. The investigation concluded that there was “no violation of law or policy” and that Baraquio was never confused with the suspect. UOPD Chief Matthew Carmichael said in an interview with the Emerald that anytime an incident like this happens, the situation is debriefed with the officer involved and UOPD goes through the video.
Carmichael said that the officer could have improved his communication with Baraquio and walked him outside, but his response did not break protocol.
“The officer’s response was within the guidelines and the officer was intensely focused and the last thing we want to do is have students in that area with the dog,” Carmichael said. “We could’ve communicated a heck-of-a-lot better.”
According to the UOPD website, Carmichael met with Baraquio after the conclusion of the investigation and watched the video with him. Carmichael said he apologized to him, for among other things, not communicating clearly and making Baraquio feel unsafe.
Going forward, Carmichael said that he and UOPD are working hard to bridge the relationship between the radio station and said that sitting down to talk with the station’s staff is a way in which both parties can move forward.
“We’re playing catch-up, but we’re working to have a better relationship with them,” Carmichael said.
Carmichael said that he is working with Baraquio and hopes to regain trust with the community.
“It’s our responsibility to be in a state of preparedness,” Carmichael said. “We’re human and make mistakes, but we train to minimize mistakes.”
The Emerald reached out to UOPD on Tuesday night to find out if the officer outside was wearing a body camera and also reached out to EPD to see if their officers were wearing body cameras and has not received responses yet. The Emerald will update this story as more information becomes available.