UC Davis Pepper Spray Cop Awarded $38,000 in Workers Comp

The former University of California Davis police lieutenant who was caught on video brutally pepper-spraying a line of peaceful protestors in 2011 during the Occupy protests was awarded a sum of $38,000 in workman’s compensation in a settlement with the university last week.


Former Lt. John Pike, 40, is reported to have suffered depression and anxiety after a video of his November 18, 2011 confrontation with Occupy Davis protestors went viral. The video sparked outrage across the country and became the clearest symbol of police brutality against the Occupy movement. Soon after the video spread, Pike claims that he and his family began regularly receiving death threats.

“This case has been resolved in accordance with state law and processes on workers’ compensation,” UC Davis spokesman Andy Fell told the Davis Enterprise. Pike’s attorney, Jason Marcus, declined to comment on the ruling. 

California state’s Disability Evaluation Unit is tasked with determining permanent disability ratings based on doctor’s reports. According to a January 5 psychiatric report issues by Richard Lieberman, and released by the state, Pike’s disability and mental distress were rated as “moderate.” 

A second psychiatrist, Bernard Bauer of San Francisco, was brought in to blindly score Pike’s responses on a battery of psychological tests—but the results have not been made public. 

In January of this year, UC Davis agreed to pay $1 million to settle a federal suit in which 21 plaintiffs who were sprayed or arrested each received $30,000. Another 15, who had claims relating to the altercation were to be paid $6,666. At over $38,000, Pike is now to be paid a larger settlement than any of the students injured or traumatized while protesting peacefully.

Pike was fired in July of 2012, following eight months of paid administrative leave. During that time, different investigations were launched in an effort to conclude whether Pike’s actions—discharging large amounts of pepper-spray into the faces of a group of quietly seated students, arms locked in peaceful protest—was valid. 

A public task force led by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso faulted both police and administrators for their roles in the incident, eventually finding that the incident was further instigated largely by Pike’s decision to use pepper spray. The spray itself, deemed unnecessary, was also sanctioned for use only at a safe distance as a means of quelling tension. The video found pike spraying obscene amounts directly into the eyes of the protesters as they sat on University grounds.

Soon after, an internal affairs investigation resulted in a panel calling for Pike’s suspension. Since then, he has been paid an annual salary of $121,680 since the time he was fired, as well as retirement benefits for his 11 years of campus employment, according to the Davis Enterprise.

The settlement is sure to reignite tensions between students and administration that continues to rise in light of budget cuts and fee hikes, as well as the continuing discussions on student loan debt—the topic that served as a catalyst for the Occupy protest at UC Davis. 

“The settlement sends a clear message to the next officer nervously facing off with a group of passive, unarmed students,” Bernie Goldsmith, Davis lawyer supportive of the protesters, said in a statement. “Brutalize them, trample their rights. You will be taken care of.”

Handsomely, it would seem. 

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