Officer in Taser case identified
The UCLA police officer videotaped last week using a Taser gun on a student also shot a homeless man at a campus study hall room three years ago and was earlier recommended for dismissal in connection with an alleged assault on fraternity row, authorities said.
UCLA police confirmed late Monday that the officer who fired the Taser gun was Terrence Duren, who has served in the university’s Police Department for 18 years.
For the record:
12:00 AM, Nov. 22, 2006 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 22, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
Taser incident: An article in Tuesday’s California section about the UCLA police officer who used a Taser gun on a student misspelled the last name of Willie Davis Frazier, a homeless man who had been shot by the officer in 2003, as Frasier.
Duren, who was named officer of the year in 2001, also has been involved in several controversial incidents on campus.
In an interview with The Times on Monday night, Duren, 43, defended his record as a campus police officer and urged people to withhold judgment until the review of his Taser use is completed.
“I patrol this area the same way I would want someone to patrol the neighborhoods where I live,” he said. “People make allegations against cops all the time. Saying one thing and proving it are two different things.”
While he would not directly talk about why he used the Taser on the student, he said a videotape of any arrest doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.
“If someone is resisting, sometimes it’s not going to look pretty taking someone into custody,” he said. “If you have to use some force, it’s not going to look pretty. That’s the nature of this job.”
A student’s cellphone video of the incident has been broadcast around the world and focused much criticism on the officer.
But Duren -- who was back on duty at the UCLA campus Monday night -- said he can roll with these punches and wants to explain himself to students critical of his actions.
“In this line of business, you have to have a thick skin,” he added. “I am proud of my service as a cop.”
The incident occurred about 11 p.m. Nov. 14 in a library filled with students studying for midterm examinations.
Senior Mostafa Tabatabainejad, 23, was asked by Duren and other university police officers for his ID as part of a routine nightly procedure to make sure that everyone using the library after 11 p.m. is a student or otherwise authorized to be there.
Authorities said Tabatabainejad refused repeated requests to provide identification or to leave. The officers decided to use the Taser to incapacitate Tabatabainejad after he went limp while they were escorting him out and after he urged other library patrons to join his resistance, according to the university’s account.
The video shows portions of the incident, in which Tabatabainejad can be heard screaming in pain when the Taser shocks are administered.
The tape, which has been broadcast on the YouTube website and TV newscasts, prompted widespread criticism both on campus and from outsiders. On Friday, more than 200 students held a march to the police station, while acting Chancellor Norman Abrams tried to quell the critics by announcing an independent investigation of the Taser use. Abrams said UCLA had received numerous e-mails and calls from concerned alumni and parents.
Tabatabainejad’s attorney, Stephen Yagman, said his client was shocked five times with the Taser after he refused to show his ID because he thought he was being singled out for his Middle Eastern appearance. Tabatabainejad is of Iranian descent but is a U.S. citizen by birth and a resident of Los Angeles.
Duren said Monday that he joined the UCLA police force after being fired from the Long Beach Police Department in the late 1980s. He said he was a probationary officer at the time and was let go because of poor report-writing skills and geographical knowledge.
In May 1990, he was accused of using his nightstick to choke someone who was hanging out on a Saturday in front of a UCLA fraternity. Kente S. Scott alleged that Duren confronted him while he was walking on the street outside the Theta Xi fraternity house.
Scott sued the university, and according to court records, UCLA officials moved to have Duren dismissed from the police force. But after an independent administrative hearing, officials overturned the dismissal, suspending him for 90 days.
Duren on Monday disputed the allegations made by Scott.
In October 2003, Duren shot and wounded a homeless man he encountered in Kerckhoff Hall. Duren chased the man into a bathroom, where they struggled and he fired two shots.
The homeless man, Willie Davis Frazier, was later convicted of assaulting an officer. Duren said Frasier had tried to grab his gun during the struggle. But Frazier’s attorney, John Raphling, said his client was mentally ill and didn’t do anything to provoke the shooting.
It remains unclear when the independent investigation of the Taser incident will be completed. It will be headed by Merrick Bobb, a veteran watchdog of both the Los Angeles Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s departments.
UCLA police officials said in a short statement that Duren arrived at Powell Library with Officer Alexis Bicomong. Duren “discharged the Taser,” the statement said. Officers Kevin Kilgore, Andrew Ikeda and Ricardo Bolanos, and Sgt. Philip Baguliao, a supervisor, were also at the scene.
“Let the independent watchdog run its course,” Duren said.
The officer said that when the probe is complete, he’d like to sit down with students, particularly Muslim student groups, to explain his actions at the library.
“I have nothing to hide.”