UC Davis Cop in Pepper Spray Controversy Was a "Hero" 41/2 Years Ago

Lt. John Pike saved the life of a fellow officer in 2006.

Update: Although has has received two meritorious service awards, he has also been at the center of controversy. An anti-gay slur made by Pike played into a 2008 discrimination lawsuit filed against the department by a former officer, the AP reports. That resulted in a $240,000 settlement. Read more on CBS News


Original Story: It was only a few years ago that the UC Davis police officer now at the center of public outrage over the fracas in the Quad Friday was enjoying media attention of a more positive variety. 

Lt. John Pike was a sergeant with the UC Davis police in 2006 when he stopped a distressed patient wielding surgical scissors from stabbing a fellow cop. The episode at the UC Davis Medical Center earned Pike his second Meritorious Service Award.

Here’s a description of the scene from the UC Davis press office in 2007: "I hit her hard," the 34-year-old former Marine recalled. So hard that he not only knocked down the patient, but [fellow officers], too.

"For me it was just a normal day at the office," said Pike, who went to the floor with the suspect as he grabbed her arm, the one holding the scissors. "She posed a threat, and I had to handle it. I didn't want her to hurt either of my partners."

Video of Friday's incident in the Quad shows on seated protesters. Protesters have named Pike as one of the sprayers. Tweets claiming to contain Pike's email address, private phone number and home adress in Davis were posted Saturday morning. 

Pike picked up a promotion to lieutenant when he received the Meritorious Service Award at a ceremony in 2007.  His first public recognition with UC Davis police was in 2003, when he used his patrol car to safely prevent a drunk driver from entering Highway 99 against traffic.

According to the UCD press office, Pike started his law enforcement career with the Sacramento Police Department. His public LinkedIn profile lists him as a graduate of California State University, Hayward and a member of the Theta Chi fraternity.

In a letter addressed to the UC Davis community Saturday, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi called the use of pepper spray against the protesters, "chilling to us all." 

Pike's past three years of salary information have been added to the Davis Wiki. His salary is more than $100,000 each year. 

A fake Twitter account with the handle @PepperSprayPike has been created, with tweets like "IF I WAS STRANDED ON A DESERTED ISLAND AND COULD ONLY SPRAY ONE PERSON... IT WOULD BE.... AHHHH!! TOO HARD!! NEED CHEETOS!!!"

janis hartman November 23, 2011 at 02:01 PM
This is for Justin Cox. You wrote "On a purely visual level, the pepper spraying looks bad. The police definitely were surrounded, which qualifies it as a threatening situation... technically. But there are so many videos that just don't relay that threat visually." Sorry, I don't agree at all. True, I was not there, so what I am saying is only as a viewer of the video showing Lt Pike spraying the sitting protesters with military grade pepper spray. He stepped back and forth over the sitting protesters. He could have played leap frog over their shoulders with the other officers, and no one would have stopped him. He clearly and freely walked, back and forth, without any interference from the seated people he was spraying! So, how, oh how were the police officers "surrounded" and "threatened"? Please, explain that to all of us. We await your reply
janis hartman November 23, 2011 at 02:11 PM
Sir, you are wrong and I am sorry for you. I want to live in THE country that allows free speech and the right to assemble and I thank the founders of our country who set it up for us. All of us have not only a right, but a duty to see that these rights are not violated by anyone, including police officers. I love my country and believe in its ideals. And, I am willing to stand up for what the founders made me an heir to. This country and its ideals are worth fighting for and it is also worth trying to reason with someone who doesn't truly understand the gift of the constitution. And really, is Libya the country that we aspire to be. I think not.
John Carman November 23, 2011 at 03:32 PM
@ Janis, I can't agree more with your assessment of the situation. Lt. Pike and his thugs had total control of the situation, it would have been easy for the crowd to attack the officers or Lt. Pike when he WILLFULLY and CAVALIERLY abused a seated group of students practicing peaceful civil disobedience, but to the credit of everybody present, they each maintained a grounded ethical standing. To anyone believing the officers were ever in danger please consider this, a group of armed hunters enters a rabbit farm... should the hunters, at anytime, feel threatened or trapped?? NO. In fact, the very decision to use pepper spray escalated the tension, the officers seem to be aware their group action reflected a lack of integrity and moral judgement, only then do they seem to show concern for their safety. But, as evidenced, at no time were they ever threatened, in fact the only weapon ever wielded against the officers was verbal shame.
Justin Cox November 23, 2011 at 06:21 PM
You're absolutely right, Janis. My intention was not to defend his decision. It was just to explore why he might have made it. That's why I used "technically" when I said it was threatening. I agree that in reality, it was not threatening. But police procedure says that once cops are surrounded, it's technically a threat. It's bad that it's so black-and-white, because obviously nobody was going to harm those officers, and Lt. Pike demonstrated that they could step over with ease. But I think it's valuable to know that that policy says to help understand what guided Lt. Pike. Feel free to email me at justin.cox@patch.com. I'm the editor of the site and haven't been able to answer comments as much as I'd like because I'm so busy. Just understand that i'm not advocating an opinion, just elaborating on details. Thanks.
Lawson November 23, 2011 at 08:40 PM


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