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september 20, 2012 • 04:56 PM

No charges for officers in California pepper spray incident

A University of California Davis police officer pepper-sprays students during their sit-in at an "Occupy UCD" demonstration in Davis, California November 18, 2011.
Foto: Brian Nguyen / Reuters In English
 

Campus police officers involved in a pepper-spraying incident in California last year that came to symbolize law enforcement aggression against anti-Wall Street protesters will not face criminal charges, the local district attorney's office said.

The chancellor of the University of California, Davis, Linda Katehi, asked local prosecutors to look into possible criminal charges late last year after police confronted seated student protesters and sprayed them at close range with pepper spray.

Video of the confrontation was replayed widely on television and the Internet, sparking outrage among faculty and activists.

The determination not to press charges came late on Wednesday from the district attorney's office in Yolo County, where the UC Davis campus is located, just outside Sacramento.

"Viewing the incident through the totality of the circumstances, there is insufficient evidence to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the use of force involved in the November 18, 2011, pepper spraying was unlawful and therefore warrants the filing of criminal charges," a report accompanying the district attorney's judgment said.

The pepper spray incident led to suspensions of the campus police chief and two officers, and briefly thrust the normally quiet campus to the forefront of national anti-Wall Street protests.

The district attorney's office decision followed the release of proposals by university officials on how to handle student protesters without the use of force.

In April, a scathing, 190-page report on the UC Davis confrontation criticized officers for using pepper spray to break up a peaceful demonstration and accused school administrators of bungling decisions at nearly every point leading to the incident.

Last week, the University of California approved terms of a settlement with nearly two dozen plaintiffs stemming from the pepper-spraying incident, officials said. The terms of that settlement are expected to be announced once a court has approved the agreement.

(Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney)

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