California cop who pepper-sprayed student protesters awarded $38,000

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Police officer who pepper sprayed students, awarded $38,000 compensation

Police officer who pepper sprayed students, awarded $38,000 compensation

Police officer who pepper sprayed students, awarded $38,000 compensation

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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A former University of California policeman who stirred public outrage by pepper-spraying peaceful student protesters has been awarded $38,000 in worker's compensation for psychiatric damage he claimed to have suffered from the 2011 incident, the university said on Wednesday.

Then-campus police Lieutenant John Pike came to symbolize law enforcement aggression against anti-Wall Street protests at the time when video footage widely aired on TV and the Internet showed him casually dousing demonstrators in the face with a can of pepper spray as they sat on the ground.

Pike was suspended from his job at UC Davis and ultimately left the force in July 2012, but university officials did not disclose the circumstances of his departure.

A scathing 190-page report on the incident found that university officials and UC Davis police used poor judgment and excessive force in the confrontation. And the incident was widely mocked in satirical messages posted on the Internet in which still photos of Pike wielding his pepper spray were inserted into famed works or art or pop culture images.

The university last fall agreed to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit brought on behalf of the 21 students who got sprayed and later reported suffering panic attacks, trauma and academic problems as a result.

In June of this year, Pike himself filed a worker's compensation claim with UC Davis over the incident, saying he suffered unspecified psychiatric and nervous system damage, though the document did not explain how he claimed to have been harmed, records show.

On October 16, the state Division of Workers Compensation Appeals Board agreed to resolve his claim by paying him a settlement totaling $38,055, UC Davis spokesman Andy Fell said on Wednesday.

"This case has been resolved in accordance with state law and processes on workers' compensation," Fell said in a written statement. "The final resolution is in line with permanent impairment as calculated by the state's disability evaluation unit."

Fell said he was not at liberty to elaborate on Pike's claim or the circumstances behind it.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Pike had earned more than $110,000 from his job in 2010, citing a database of state worker salaries from the last year for which figures are available.

The newspaper said he had received more than 17,000 angry or threatening emails, 10,000 text messages and hundreds of letters after the video of the pepper-spraying went viral.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi had asked prosecutors to look into possible criminal charges against the police officers involved in the pepper-spraying. But the Yolo County District Attorney's office determined there were no grounds on which to bring a case.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Lisa Shumaker)

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