Students share accounts of alleged police misconduct
Alex Davidson, dubbed the Terminator of Tucson by Deadspin, is restrained by Tucson Police Department officers after approaching the officers on University Boulevard and Tyndall Avenue during the clash Saturday evening on University Boulevard. Wildcat fans crowded the streets after Arizona lost 64-63 to Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight on Saturday evening at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
When Tim Decker heard people cheering out on University Boulevard after the Arizona men’s baskeball team lost on Saturday night, he left his dorm to see what was going on.
Decker, a biology freshman, stood on the corner of University Boulevard and Tyndall Avenue, observing the crowd chanting “U of A.” He said people began to get aggressive when the cops showed up.
Decker said he was alone when a cop approached him, asking him to back off the street. Decker asked, “Why?” because he believed he wasn’t doing anything wrong and was standing on public property by himself observing the scene.
“The next thing that I knew is I was hit in the face with a nightstick, and then I took off my hood and I put my hands up and I was like, ‘That’s assault — you’re not allowed to do that,’” Decker said. “And the next thing that I knew, I was being grabbed by police officers, and they all started hitting me and beating me and telling me I was resisting when I was screaming, ‘I’m not resisting,’ and it was all pretty scary. I was a little confused about why everything was happening.”
During Saturday night’s clash between crowds and officers of the Tucson Police Department 15 people were arrested, nine of them UA students.
Decker said about six officers grabbed him and hit him with their fists, and he was also hit with batons a few times, leaving a lump on his head, scrapes on his knees and marks all over his body, including one on the back of his neck.
Decker was taken to a van, where he stayed with about nine other students for two hours until the area was cleared. After being charged for unlawful assembly, Decker was released.
There are videos of Decker clashing with police on YouTube and other social media sites. One of the most popular videos circulating of the clash shows a woman being slammed into a bench by an TPD officer.
The woman in the video, Christina Gardilcic, is a senior studying psychology and Latin American studies at the UA. Gardilcic is currently in discussions with her lawyer regarding a potential lawsuit against TPD.
Unlawful assembly is defined in Arizona Revised Statutes as “1. Assembling with two or more other persons with the intent to engage in conduct constituting a riot … or 2. Being present at an assembly of two or more other persons who are engaged in or who have the readily apparent intent to engage in conduct constituting a riot … and knowingly remaining there and refusing to obey an official order to disperse.”
Sgt. Chris Widmer, a TPD public information officer, said everything was going OK until smoke bombs that had been set by a crowd member went off, causing people to take over the street.
Officers did what they were ordered to, which was to maintain control on University Boulevard to prevent such a gathering, he said.
Widmer said past incidents from 1997 and 2001, when riots broke out after championship games and people flipped cars over and damaged businesses, taught the department that violence can result from large gatherings.
“The only option they did not have was to stay in place or to move east past the line,” Widmer said. “When we allow crowds to mingle and we allow them to build up and to kind of feed on each other, historically, that’s when the disorderly conduct starts.”
Decker said the crowd of people seemed like a tailgate to him, where people were simply showing their pride for the university’s basketball team. Decker added that he didn’t think police were trained very well for what happened and were probably scared because they weren’t sure what to do.
“When they were going into it, just because of what’s happened in the past, they automatically thought whatever was going to happen — it was going to be a riot, and that’s how they were going to deal with it,” Decker said. “But I thought that was the wrong way of going about it.”
Ahva Sadeghi, a philosophy, politics, economics and law junior, said she was leaving Gentle Ben’s Brewing Company and trying to get to her car when she was stopped by a TPD officer. The officer told her she couldn’t go that way, so she turned around and tried walking toward Euclid Avenue, and an officer kept her from walking that direction as well.
An officer then dropped a pepper canister in front of Sadeghi, releasing pepper spray in her face and causing her to cough nonstop for about an hour and a half after the incident, she said. Sadeghi added that her throat still hasn’t cleared since Saturday’s incident.
She said police should have only interfered if fights broke out or if students were being harmed, which she didn’t see happening on Saturday after the game. Students were simply high-fiving each other in the crowds, she added.
“Students should be able to celebrate a win or to be sad as long as there is no one harmed,” Sadeghi said. “Here at U of A we’re a community. … I feel like a direct win when my basketball team wins, and I feel a direct loss even though I wasn’t at the stadium, even though I had nothing to do with the win. That’s how united our school is, and we’re very passionate, but passion shouldn’t be
confused with fury.”
Sadeghi said her parents were concerned because they don’t live in Tucson, and they rely on the local police force to protect her when she’s away for school.
“They don’t want the police to put us in harm’s direction,” Sadeghi said. “My parents were so nervous. I couldn’t carry a conversation with them because I couldn’t stop coughing.”