October 24, 2013

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.

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.

In June of this year, Pike 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.

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 Chronicle 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, and that he repeatedly changed his phone number, e-mail address and lived in various locations.

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. The payout is about $8,000 more than each of the assaulted demonstrators received in a settlement from the university last year.

"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."

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.

Bernie Goldsmith, a Davis attorney supportive of the student protesters, told the Associated Press that the settlement “sends a clear message to the next officer nervously facing off with a group of passive, unarmed students: Go on ahead. Brutalize them. Trample their rights. You will be well taken care of.”

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