An attorney who was part of a review of excessive force complaints following the Rodney King beating will investigate a UCLA police officer’s use of a Taser on an Iranian-American student, the school said Friday.
The move came in response to student demands voiced earlier Friday at a news conference and subsequent rally, where speakers said the shocking of Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23, sent a chill across the campus.
“As students we feel our safety is endangered, and we do not feel safe on campus,” said Sabiha Ameen, president of the Muslim Students Association.
Tabatabainejad, 23, was shocked Tuesday night after arguing with a campus police officer who was conducting a routine check of student IDs at the University of California, Los Angeles, Powell Library computer lab.
Campus police say he refused to show his student ID and refused to leave the building when asked.
A few hours after the rally, acting Chancellor Norman Abrams announced he had chosen Merrick Bobb, the founder of a local nonprofit dedicated to police reform, to lead an independent investigation.
Bobb served as staff attorney for the Christopher Commission, which was formed to examine allegations of excessive force in the Los Angeles Police Department after the King beating in the early ‘90s.
“I have complete respect for, and confidence in, (campus police),” Abrams said. “But there are times when it is helpful to turn to an outside review as well.”
University Police Chief Karl Ross said he had recommended the independent probe.
“While I am confident of our ability to perform a fair and thorough investigation, I am also cognizant of the need for a transparent review,” Ross said.
Police said they shocked Tabatabainejad after he urged others to join his resistance and a crowd began to gather. Footage from another student’s camera phone showed Tabatabainejad screaming on the floor of the computer lab.
Students at the news conference said there was no sign Tabatabainejad was targeted because of his ethnicity. But his lawyer disagreed.
Civil rights attorney Stephen Yagman announced separately that he plans to file a lawsuit charging that the American-born Tabatabainejad was singled out because of his Middle Eastern appearance.
Abrams cautioned the public against jumping to conclusions before an investigation is completed.
“It would be best if everyone, within and without the university, would withhold judgment pending review of the matter,” Abrams said in an earlier news release.
***You can see video footage of the incident on YouTube:
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