Mood: accident prone
Now Playing: 7 second of being taser used on college kid in Florida
Topic: CIVIL RIGHTS
TASER USED ON UNARMED STUDENTBy KIM WILMATH, Alligator Writer
Andrew Meyer, a telecommunication senior and former Alligator columnist, was charged with a third-degree felony for resisting arrest with violence, according to a University Police Department report.
A third-degree felony could mean up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000, according to a UF Web site.
Meyer attempted to ask Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, about his involvement in Skull and Bones, a secret society at Yale University, at the end of the speech's question-and-answer session.
But when his microphone was cut off, Meyer began to scream in protest. Members of Accent, Student Government's speakers bureau, cut off the microphone because Meyer used profanity, said Steven Blank, Accent chairman. Accent sponsored the forum, which was held at the University Auditorium.
Several officers attempted to remove Meyer from the microphone when he began "acting in a violent manner" and "pushing the officers," according to the report.
Police said Meyer was told to comply with the officers, but he continued to resist.
"Don't Tase me, bro!" Meyer screamed as officers attempted to drag him outside the University Auditorium. "I didn't do anything."
Steve Orlando, UF's spokesman, said police then shot Meyer with a Taser gun.
Meyer was booked into the Alachua County Jail just after 2 p.m., where he remained until at least 9 p.m. Monday, according to jail records. He could not be reached for comment.
Matthew Howland, a UF history senior who also attended the speech and videotaped the incident on his cell phone, said police held the Taser gun on Meyer for about seven seconds.
Howland said he thought Meyer was behaving inappropriately, but the officers' actions left most of the audience members stunned.
"How can you say a student created a riot when it was clearly the officers who elevated the situation to a level it did not need to go?" Howland said.
He said Meyer's frantic reaction seemed understandable. "How are you supposed to react if you have six officers hopping on you and yelling at you?" he asked.
"I don't want to say it was police brutality because that term should be saved for more obvious events, but it was damn close," he added.
Jeff Holcomb, UPD spokesman, could not be reached for comment.
While Meyer wrestled with officers at the back of the auditorium, Howland said Kerry remained on stage, trying to keep the rest of the crowd calm and answering more questions.
A spokesman for Kerry would not comment.
Asia Johnson, a UF advertising senior who was also at the speech, said Kerry was trying to answer Meyer's question as police started grabbing him.
Johnson said as police pinned Meyer to the ground, she heard him yell, "Just get off of me and I'll walk out of here."
She created a Facebook group later that day about the incident called "John Kerry conference at UF! A fiasco!!! Needs to be known!" and outlined her account of the event.
"If the police are considered to be the 'good' side of this world, I did not see that today," Johnson wrote. "Today I saw fear, confusion and ignorance."
Johnson said she planned to write a letter to UPD administrators, urging them to reprimand the officers at the speech and issue a formal apology to Meyer.
Johnson struggled to catch her breath during a telephone interview that night, explaining that she was still shaken up about the incident.
"His cries of help were absolutely horrifying," she said. "It's going to stick with me for a long time. It's going to stick with him even longer."
A group of UF students will stage a march today from noon to 1 p.m. on the Plaza of the Americas, said Tina Steiger, an international relations junior who helped organize the march.
Steiger said students would demand that UPD drop all charges against Meyer, immediately suspend the officers involved in his arrest and remove all Taser guns from campus.
Alligator Staff Writer Andrew Tan contributed to this report.
Sparks flew during a townhall meeting that Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., held yesterday at the University of Florida. Journalism student Andrew Meyer interrupted the speech, prompting police to drag him away from the microphone and shoot him with a Taser gun.
"He apparently asked several questions — he went on for quite awhile — then he was asked to stop," university spokesman Steve Orlando tells the Associated Press. "He had used his allotted time. His microphone was cut off, then he became upset."
WTVJ-TV sums up its video in one sentence: "Andrew Meyer, a UF student from Weston, is tasered and taken away by police after asking John Kerry a question during a speech."
AP says Meyer was charged with resisting arrest and disturbing the peace. He is being held at the local jail.
Update at 9:55 a.m. ET: Thanks to bopdieuropa85 for pointing out in the comments section that the event was in the afternoon, not the evening.
The Independent Florida Alligator identifies Meyer as a senior who is majoring in telecommunication and says he used to work as one of the student newspaper's columnists. (A selection of his writings for the paper. Some more material.)
Here's an excerpt from the paper's editorial about the incident: "UPD's actions are inexcusable and out of line. It owes an apology not just to Andrew Meyer, but also to all of UF. We must be able to trust those who are supposed to protect us. We should not have to fear them."
Meyer's fellow students have created a Facebook group devoted to this incident. It's called "John Kerry conference at UF! A fiasco!!! Needs to be known!" They plan to stage a protest later today.
Here's more footage of the arrest:
On Deadline has requested comment from Kerry, the University of Florida Police Department and the student group that hosted the forum. We'll update this posting if they get back to us before the end of the day.
Update at 11:36 a.m. ET: A university spokesman is on CNN right now. "We're well aware about the concerns that the community has about this. You know we have our own concerns about it," Steve Orlando, head of the school's news bureau, says.
Orlando says "a couple of the officers were actually injured in the incident." The police chief asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to review how her officers handled the arrest, he says.
Update at 12:06 p.m. ET: John Kerry's office just sent us this statement from the senator: In 37 years of public appearances, through wars, protests and highly emotional events, I have never had a dialogue end this way. I believe I could have handled the situation without interruption, but again I do not know what warnings or other exchanges transpired between the young man and the police prior to his barging to the front of the line and their intervention. I asked the police to allow me to answer the question and was in the process of answering him when he was taken into custody. I was not aware that a taser was used until after I left the building. I hope that neither the student nor any of the police were injured. I regret enormously that a good healthy discussion was interrupted.
Update at 12:17 p.m. ET: Court records show that Meyer was booked on a felony charge of resisting an officer and a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace. That's not what the officers told Meyer after he was shocked and taken into custody. "You're under arrest for inciting a riot," a female police officer said at the time.
Update at 2:06 p.m. ET: Bernie Machen, the president of the University of Florida, issued a statement earlier this afternoon. Now he's addressing reporters in Gainesville.
"We're absolutely committed to having a safe environment for our faculty and our students so that the free exchange of ideas can occur. ... The incident that occurred yesterday is regretful for us because civil discourse and dialogue did not occur," he says.
Machen wouldn't comment on the appropriateness of the arrest or the manner in which it was executed, but he said that two officers have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a review.
He says the school has asked prosecutors to "act expeditiously" in deciding whether to go forward with charges against the student.
this Follow up Comment on YouTube
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