On November 14, 2006, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, an Iranian-American UCLA student, was stunned multiple times with a Taser by campus police, for allegedly refusing to be escorted out of the College Library Instructional Computing Commons (CLICC Lab) at Powell Library. The police had been called after Tabatabainejad had refused to provide his BruinCard (student ID) to a UCLA CSO during a routine check. Part of the incident was recorded on video by a camera phone.
Tabatabainejad has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the officers used excessive force and that they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. As of May 2008, the case has not been heard.
When Tabatabainejad refused to produce university identification, he was asked to leave the premises. When Tabatabainejad failed to leave, UCPD officers were called to the scene, arriving approximately 10 minutes later. Following a confrontation, the officers used the Taser in its "Drive Stun" capacity.
Tabatabainejad was released from custody after being given a citation for obstruction/delay of a peace officer in the performance of duty. According to a press release issued by the UCPD, he was also issued a court date.
Also on the scene were Officers Alexis Bicomong, Kevin Kilgore, and Andrew Ikeda.
At one point, the officers told the crowd to stand back and threatened to tase anyone who approached too closely. A female student said that the officers threatened to tase her when she asked an officer for his name and badge number. According to an ACLU attorney, such a threat of force in response to a badge number request constitutes illegal assault. At 6:36 in the video, an officer tells a male student, "Get back over there or you’re going to get tased, too." The student, wearing a white t-shirt in the video, can be seen "using intense body language" and "talking heatedly and with raised [voice]" prior to being confronted. The officer first tells the student to "back up" before threatening tasing.
A press release issued by the UCPD claims that the officers "asked Tabatabainejad to leave the premises multiple times", and that Tabatabainejad refused to leave. Witnesses dispute this account, saying that Tabatabainejad had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack when an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, whereupon Tabatabainejad told the officer several times to let go.
The independent report clarifies:
On November 17, 2006, a press conference was held by Abrams and UCPD Chief Karl Ross, during which it was announced that the UCPD was planning to conduct an independent investigation into the incident led by Merrick Bobb, president of the Police Assessment Resource Center.
On August 1, 2007, the results of the internal and independent investigations were released, nine months after the incident. The independent investigation found a number of policy violations, but the internal investigation found none. According to Abrams's statement, the difference in conclusions "is not unusual in the legal system. Reasonable people may disagree regarding the inferences to be drawn from the same set of facts, and the facts may differ if some witnesses testify in one investigation and not in the other. The internal investigation is confidential, but the full independent report is available for review.
On December 10, 2007, the UCLA Police Department released its new policy governing Taser use. The policy was developed from recommendations made in the independent report and with input from experts on Tasers and police use-of-force policy. School administrators and student leaders were asked to review and comment on the policy before it was finalized.
On November 17, 2006, 400 protesters, including UCLA faculty and staff, parents, community members, and UCLA students, gathered at Kerckhoff Hall to protest the incident. This was followed by a march to the UCPD police station, where protesters were met by officers in riot gear.
The protest was organized by more than fifty student organizations to demand an independent investigation into the incident, and to demand the inclusion of students in the investigation.
Combiz Abdolrahimi, chairman of the National Iranian-American Council at UCLA, said that the chancellor should "appoint students who will be able to make sure the investigation is transparent". He also called for a temporary suspension of the officers.
On the same day as the protest, Abrams announced an independent investigation in addition to the internal investigation.
On November 18, 2006, the University of California Students Association passed a "Police Brutality Resolution" regarding recent incidents at UC Santa Cruz and UCLA. A Daily Bruin editorial criticized the UCLA portion of the resolution, describing it as "full of inaccuracies".
A November 22, 2006 article in the Los Angeles Times reported that Yagman had said on November 21 that he was no longer representing Tabatabainejad. It was not clear from the article whether the lawsuit against the UCPD was still going forward.
On January 17, 2007, Tabatabainejad filed a federal lawsuit alleging the campus officers used excessive force, and that they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. He is seeking unspecified damages. According to the lawsuit, Tabatabainejad has bipolar disorder and informed the officers of his condition, but was treated in a way that constitutes discrimination under the ADA. His attorney, Paul Hoffman, has said that a February 2008 court date has been set.
Of the ten UC campus police departments, six have equipped officers with Tasers, but only UCLA had a flexible policy authorizing Tasers to be used as a pain-compliance tool against suspects who are passively resisting.
The UCLA PD released its new Taser policy on December 10, 2007. According to UCPD Chief Karl Ross, the new policy is considerably longer, includes specific definitions of appropriate and inappropriate use, and explicitly prohibits use against a "passive resister".