The Tucson Police Department is internally investigating allegations of police misconduct from Saturday night’s clash on University Boulevard following the Arizona men’s basketball team’s loss in the Elite Eight.
One cell phone video shows what appears to be a Tucson Police Department officer knocking a woman over a bench as she walks behind the line of riot police stretched across the street. People around the woman who was knocked over begin yelling at the officer and one shouts, “What did you do that for?”
A version of the video posted to Facebook by Cara Monier, an undeclared UA freshman, had been shared more than 3,000 times as of Monday evening. Monier said she received the video from a friend and shared it to make sure others could see what happened.
“As soon as I saw [the video] it made my blood boil,” Monier said. “I am so intensely angry at the way that police officers were treating people and the way they were handling the situation.”
The incident is currently being internally investigated by TPD, according to Roberto Villaseñor, TPD chief of police. The officer in question has already been interviewed regarding the incident.
“We’re going to look at all the circumstances and make our determination there,” Villaseñor said, “but we’re going to do it based off of everything, not just one video clip everyone’s looking at.”
The officer was wearing a camera at the time of the incident and Villaseñor said police would be looking through what the camera recorded as they conduct their investigation.
Villaseñor also said at the point in Saturday night’s events that the incident occurred, the area had been closed off as police had declared an unlawful assembly.
“Once we’ve closed off an area, you can’t go through our line,” he said.
Villaseñor said TPD would be reviewing all aspects of the incident and asked for patience from the public.
“They want quick action based on the video,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way. We need to do a thorough investigation.”
Another video shows a man, identified as Alexander Davidson, 23, walking toward the line of riot police with arms outstretched. Police shoot him multiple times with pepper balls. The man is then restrained by several officers and pulled back behind the line of officers. One officer appears to strike the man in the face as he is being grabbed.
At that point, members of the crowd begin chanting, “Police brutality.”
Davidson did not respond to requests for comment. He was one of 15 people who were arrested Saturday night.
After an unlawful assembly has been declared, when people refuse to follow orders issued by police, police will fire pepper balls at their feet first, according to Villaseñor. If the individual still doesn’t fall back, officers will begin shooting pepper balls at the person.
“He got hit several times in the chest and that still didn’t stop him, so at that point the only option is to go out and grab him and take him into custody,” Villaseñor said.
TPD received three complaints regarding officers’ actions Saturday night, one being about the woman who appeared to be knocked over a bench by an officer. Villaseñor said TPD spent three to four hours Monday morning going over the events that transpired.
Some are questioning TPD’s preparations in having officers in their protective equipment while the game was still being played, according to Villaseñor. About 60 to 70 officers were present on University Boulevard during the game.
Monier said she was watching the game at Gentle Ben’s Brewing Co. and saw a strong police presence on University Boulevard before the game ended. She said the attire worn by police indicated they were expecting fans to grow unruly after the game.
“The Tucson police officers set the atmosphere for the riot to happen,” Monier said.
Police were wearing protective helmets and face shields and were carrying gas masks to prepare for anything that could happen, Villaseñor said.
Overall, he said he believed officers responded well given the situation they faced.
“I think my officers acted professionally,” Villaseñor said. “Does that mean that everything single thing we did was right? I’m not going to make that statement.”
In a statement from Kendal Washington White, assistant vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, she said TPD’s response was necessary.
“The Tucson Police Department took the actions necessary to ensure public order, safeguard property and protect people,” White said.
TPD will share the results of its reviews of the events of Saturday night with the UA, according to White’s statement.