According to Tabatabainejad, he refused to show his student ID to officers while studying in the Powell Library computer lab because he thought the University of California Police Department had singled him out for his ethnic appearance. Tabatabainejad is of Iranian descent, but was born in the United States and lives in Los Angeles. The officers apparently demanded Tabatabainejad leave but then physically detained him when he tried, eyewitnesses said.
Tabatabainejad responded with passive resistance and was then shocked with a Taser stun gun and handcuffed as other students watched. Tabatebainejad still refused to get up as police repeatedly told him to, and maintained his passive resistance. The police moved with the Tasers, allegedly having them in "drive stun" mode -- which causes it to function like a cattle prod -- as opposed to the paralysis brought on by its full mode. Witnesses said that Tabatabainejad reported having a medical condition to the officers as they threatened him with the Tasers.
In the video, Tabatabainejad repeatedly shouts "I'm not fighting you," "I said I would leave," and screams in pain as the officers continue to prod him even after he is handcuffed and Tabatabainejad continues to go limp. He also shouts, "This is your Patriot Act. This is your (expletive) abuse of power." Tabatabainejad is then dragged from the room by two officers, pulled into the foyer of the library, and shocked again before falling down a flight of stairs and being taken from the library.
The campus police charged Tabatabainejad with resisting/obstructing a police officer, and he was released the next morning with a citation. The official UCPD report does not include the number of officers involved, the number of times Tabatabainejad was stunned with Tasers, nor whether he was read his rights. "Tabatabainejab [sic] encouraged library patrons to join his resistance," said the official report. "A crowd gathering around the officers and Tabatebainejad's [sic] continued resistance made it urgent to remove Tabatabainejad from the area. The officers deemed it necessary to use the Taser in a 'drive stun' capacity."
Fellow students protested Tabatabainejad's treatment during the incident, repeatedly shouting for officers to give their reasoning for Tabatabainejad's treatment and for their badge numbers, but they were told to keep back and threatened with the Tasers.
"What was done was unnecessary," said Rahmatullah Akbar, a UCLA senior. "We as students don't deserve to be Tasered."
After the incident, the students said they discussed the best way to handle the situation, and began contacting the media and circulating the video across the internet. The following Friday, more than 200 students marched on the UCPD headquarters, some with signs saying "I am a student, don't Taser me." The students demanded an independent investigation into the incident, the banning of Taser use on campus, as well as the suspension of the officers involved.
Hours later, the university responded with the announcement that Merrick Bobb, a former Christopher Commission staff attorney who assisted in the investigation of the Rodney King beating, would be heading up the independent investigation. The university police also launched their own internal investigation, and university spokespersons asked that students "withhold judgment" about the incident.
One of the issues under investigation is whether the officers were in compliance with university police rules for using Tasers. The Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's department only allow officers to use their Tasers if the suspect poses a physical threat or is acting combatively. The sheriff's policies specifically say that the Taser cannot be used just to move someone.
The policies of the UCLA police allow them to use Tasers on passive resisters as a "pain compliance technique," said Assistant Chief Jeff Young on Friday. Young said that Tabatabainejad was a passive resister, but admitted that he did not actively resist the officers.
"He was 200 pounds and went limp and was very hard to manage. They were trying to get him on his feet," Young said.
"It is an appalling and traumatically excessive use of force on someone passive-resisting," said Peter Bibring, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which is also launching an investigation into the incident. "The officers seem so confident in what they are doing. They need to change their policies and training."
According to his attorney, Stephen Yagman, Tabatabainejad has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the UCPD charging them with false arrest and the use of "brutal excessive force."