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California cop who pepper-sprayed students claims psychiatric damage

A University of California Davis police officer pepper-sprays students during their sit-in at an "Occupy UCD" demonstration in Davis, Califo
A University of California Davis police officer pepper-sprays students during their sit-in at an "Occupy UCD" demonstration in Davis, Califo

By Laila Kearney

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A former University of California policeman who drew widespread scorn for pepper-spraying peaceful student protesters is seeking worker's compensation for psychiatric damage he said he suffered in the 2011 incident.

Video footage of then-campus police Lieutenant John Pike casually dousing student demonstrators in the face with a can of pepper spray as they sat on the ground at UC Davis came to symbolize law enforcement aggression against anti-Wall Street protests at the time.

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

A scathing 190-page report on the incident found that university officials and UC Davis campus police showed poor judgment and used excessive force in the confrontation, which was widely replayed on television and the Internet.

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 falling grades as a result.

Last month, 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.

A judge is scheduled to hear Pike's claim at a worker's compensation conference in Sacramento on August 13. The case would likely go to trial if Pike and the police department fail to reach an agreement, California Department of Industrial Relations spokesman Peter Melton said on Friday.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi had asked local 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 was no grounds on which to bring a case.

Earlier this week, a state appellate court ruled that newspapers have a right to publish the names of all the UC Davis police officers involved in the pepper-spraying incident.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Steve Gorman and Mohammad Zargham)

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