Taser use prompts protest, investigation

Taser use prompts protest, investigation »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. - A Taser incident in downtown Eugene last Friday is sparking action – both from those involved with the protest and from Eugene police.

Police used a Taser on 19-year-old Ian Van Ornum on Friday. Officers said he resisted arrest as he was being restrained for blocking traffic after threatening to spray them with an unknown substance.

But event organizers say Van Ornum was protesting peacefully against pesticide use. They accuse police of using excessive force.

The Eugene police auditor's office is investigating the incident. Van Ornum filed an official complaint accusing the police of brutality, and 10 other witnesses have provided their accounts to the auditor.

A group of 20 to 30 protestors, carrying signs and wearing armbands, gathered Thursday on the UO campus to protest against police violence.

Organizers also spoke about a video now on YouTube. They say the video shows police treating Van Ornum unfairly, putting a knee on his back and holding him to the ground.

The video is heavily edited and doesn't show the actual use of the Taser. However, it has been submitted as part of the official complaint, along with 28 still photos.

 The deputy auditor said an internal affairs investigator was just placed on the case that day. The investigator will interview witnesses and the five police officers linked to the incident.

He'll then rule if police violated procedures. But some at the protest were skeptical.

"It worries me because I don't necessary trust internal affairs of the Eugene Police Department will handle it correctly," said Amy Pincus Merwin, at right, who was among those who witnessed the Taser incident. "They have not handled issues similar to this in the past.

"I'm not sure that I have faith in internal affairs investigators' neutrality," she added.

The deputy auditor told us the investigator's report is due by July 29. She added that anyone who witnessed Friday's protest should contact her office.

We also tried to talk with Van Ornum, but he said he still hadn’t cleared it with his lawyer.