Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that UPOD officer drew their weapons on a student, which is incorrect. Read the most recent story about the incident and watch the officers' body camera footage here.
What began as a normal night in the KWVA DJ studio for University of Oregon student Sterling Baraquio ended with several UOPD officers drawing their guns on him.
UO spokesman Tobin Klinger explained that late on the night of May 11, UOPD officers were responding to a suspect who tried to break into the Tykeson Hall construction site with bolt cutters. Officers tried to stop the suspect, but he refused to stop and ran away.
Klinger said the suspect was described as: a white male in a dark hooded sweatshirt with a slight build, approximately 6 foot, 170 pounds and between 18 and 25 years old. Klinger said the suspect has still not been identified.
Police believed that the suspect may have run into the EMU, so they began clearing the building.
It was 12 a.m. on Saturday morning when Baraquio, a 21-year-old UO junior, was in the EMU hosting his radio show in the KWVA studio. He said that about 40 minutes into his show, a UOPD officer entered the station.
Baraquio quickly put on a playlist of songs so the broadcast wouldn’t be interrupted.
“He comes into the studio and says that I have to leave with him right now — immediately,” Baraquio said. He was the only one in the station.
Baraquio said that he asked the officer repeatedly what was going on and if he was being arrested, but the officer offered no further information. He also said the officer seemed agitated and just repeated that he needed to leave.
Baraquio said the officer then left the recording booth. He began gathering his belongings before the officer returned moments later, this time with his weapon drawn and pointed down — not directly at him — and told Baraquio to exit the station immediately. Baraquio said that he complied and was escorted toward the exit without his belongings, but the officer said he could return to get them later.
“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.
According to Baraquio, the officer did not escort him all the way to the exit by the large lawn outside the EMU. Baraquio said that when he exited the building by himself, two or three officers with flashlights and weapons ran in his direction, loudly commanding him to get on the ground.
“They’re just screaming at me to ‘get on the floor,’ ‘get on the ground,’ ‘put your hands up.’ They think I’m the suspect,” Baraquio said. “I have never been put in that situation before or anything close to it. It was probably one of the scariest moments of my life. Having weapons drawn on me, I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
He said the officers did not let him up until the original officer who had escorted him out of the radio station arrived a couple minutes later and told the other officers that he was a DJ and not the suspect.
“There was no communication with the cop who escorted me through the EMU and with those other cops. I thought it was really poorly executed,” Baraquio said.
He said that he asked for information about why the EMU was being cleared, when he could go back in for his belongings, and for the names of officers, but was given no information.
UOPD Chief Matthew Carmichael is currently reviewing the interaction between the officers and Baraquio for “skill development” according to Klinger, and UOPD refused to comment on the interaction until the review is completed.
The interaction left Baraquio feeling frustrated and confused.
“I don’t want to assume that it just happened because I’m a person of color. I don’t want to just say that, but I really do think that part of it has to do with it. Why didn’t he walk me out? Why didn’t he communicate with the other cops? Does he not value my safety over someone else’s safety?” Baraquio said.
An officer from UOPD met with Baraquio and recorded his recollection of the incident on Thursday morning, and the same officer met with a group of about 15 students who work at KWVA to answer their questions.
Baraquio said the officer explained that UOPD will be reviewing all the footage, including the footage from the bodycam on the officer who interacted with Baraquio in the radio station.
Even though he feels that the meeting was helpful and it seems like UOPD “wants to make a change,” he is still left troubled by the situation.
“I think there definitely needs to be resolution and somebody needs to be held accountable,” he said. “I don’t want anything like this to happen again.”