A Day's Work

Wednesday, 9 December 2009
For the first time in my eight years as a journalist, I've filed a public records request appeal to the District Attorney of the county I live in (Lane County).  Now, I feel like a seasoned reporter.  In my opinion, this is working towards the greater good of the community in which I reside.  Why?  The more information I can get released to Eugene citizens, the better.

So what went down?  Here's the background:  On September 22, 2009 a Eugene apartment manager made a 9-1-1 call to say someone was trespassing.  Eugene Police sent two officers to the location.  The officers enter the apartment pointed out by the manager and see a "suspect."  They take him into custody without a problem but they hear someone upstairs.

One of the officers, Judd Warden goes upstairs and sees another "suspect."  In the police report, he says the person was coming at him and he yelled for him to get back.  He then somehow fell down and fired his Taser.  The other officer said in the police report that the "suspect" was sitting on a bed when Officer Warden fired his taser.  What really happened?  We don't know because we were denied access to the video from the Taser camera which is public record.

Turns out the person who was shocked by the officer was a Chinese exchange student who didn't understand English and had just arrived in the country to attend the University of Oregon.  The apartment manager erroneously called police and the officer fired a taser at a student who wasn't breaking the law or committing a crime.  Now the student has reportedly told his attorney that he doesn't want the video released.

We found out about the incident through a rumor in October.  Then we confirmed it with police but they wouldn't even release the written police report - which is also public record.  Two newspapers in Eugene, the Register Guard and Eugene Weekly appealed the public records denial to the Lane County District Attorney and won.

Now, I'm trying to do the same thing to get a copy of the video from the officer's Taser camera.  Why?  There is public concern surrounding this incident and the video is public record.  If Eugene citizens have questions about the officer's actions, why shouldn't they SEE what happened?

Here's my report:

The other factor in play here is this isn't the only controversial Taser incident involving Officer Judd Warden.  He shocked a University of Oregon student twice with a Taser last year during a pesticide protest in Downtown Eugene.  The student Ian Van Ornum was later found guilty of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.


Unknown said...

Funny, I live in Coquille, we have more violent crime that you can shake a stick at, and our cops never tase anyone.

Maybe it's a chicken and egg thing?

Denae said...

Not sure... I'm certainly not against the use of tasers as an alternative to deadly force. However, I also feel there are instances when reasoning or issuing a citation may also work without shocking someone.