Eugene residents split on controversial arrest

EUGENE — Eugene residents are showering police with both protest and praise after a controversial drug arrest.

People spoke out during a forum held days after officers arrested a 29-year-old man while a crowd surrounded them and screamed obscenities, reported the Register-Guard.

Lt. Doug Mozan reviewed video footage and police reports of the incident. He told the Register-Guard that Walton was clinging to the bumper of a police car, requiring officers to gradually escalate their use of force.

Two videos show officers pinning Walton to the ground while using pepper spray and punching him. An officer's use of a Taser further agitated the crowd, which police estimate was as big as 50 people.

Speakers during the public forum at Monday's City Council meeting said officers used excessive force and didn't try to de-escalate the situation, while others defended police and called their actions courageous.

The arrest occurred at a park that has been used for drug use and sales, Eugene Police Chief Pete Kern told the council. He said officials plan to address the issues with enforcement and attracting “a broader group of people to the park.”

Before the meeting, a few people spoke out against police brutality on the same street where the park is located.

“I'm pretty sure it's not legal to punch someone in the kidneys,” said Eugene resident Gwendolyn Iris, who helped organize the protest. “I'm pretty sure many of those things I witnessed on that video are not legal, whether you are a police officer or not.”

Eugene resident Eimar Boesjes said an “incredibly courageous” policewoman stayed calm when confronted by the crowd.

“I have an enormous respect for someone like that,” he said. “I don't think I could do it.”

Police Auditor Mark Gissiner says the incident is under review and that his office also intends to watch footage from officers who wore body cameras.

He said the results of his office's review could trigger a formal internal investigation.


Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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