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Police give riot account

By Rebekah Kleinman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday April 24, 2003

TPD officers testify in lawsuit about student's eye injury during 2001 Fourth Ave. riots

The former UA student whose eye was shot out during the Fourth Avenue riot two years ago heard Tucson police officers give their account of the incident in court yesterday.

Jeff Knepper, who filed a $3 million lawsuit against the City of Tucson, said police were negligent during the April 2, 2001, riots following the UA men's basketball loss to Duke in the NCAA championship. Knepper's lawyer, Carl Piccarreta, said he spent most of the morning trying to build a case against the Tucson Police Department to prove negligence.

TPD Asst. Chief Kathleen Marie Robinson said the department's review board evaluated more than 3,000 pages of planning materials, 40 hours of video and audio tape and more than 78 witness statements from citizens before making a conclusion about the incident.

"The board concluded TPD took too long to move the crowd out. Is that correct?" Piccarreta asked Robinson.

"The final consensus of the board was that we should have moved sooner," Robinson said.

According to the Board of Inquiry Timing of Events schedule presented to the jury, within a half hour of UA's loss, the crowd began to get larger and started committing criminal acts, but still, officers did not feel the need to mobilize, Piccarreta said.

"TPD receives a call from O'Malleys at 9:39 saying there are riots going on outside, people are trying to break the windows and still officers are not deployed. Is that correct?" Piccarreta asked Robinson.

Robinson said that was correct.

Earlier Piccarreta asked TPD Officer Paul Patterson, "If I had been watching a globe get tossed around at, say, 9:30 p.m., would that have been justification to be fired upon at 10:15 p.m.?"

"I don't believe so, no," Patterson replied.

Patterson told the jury he shot a flex baton 20-25 times, although he was unsure exactly how many times he actually hit his targets.

"To make someone a legitimate target by saying they were standing around is not right, but that person could have been hit if they were standing between an officer and the target," Patterson said.

However, one jury member questioned why TPD had chosen to use less-lethal weapons, rather than gas.

"Gas, once it's deployed, is indiscriminate. Once you have deployed gas, you can no longer single out a target," Patterson said.

Knepper, while testifying Tuesday, said that he initially went to North Fourth Avenue out of curiosity. While there, he saw people turn cars over, men on top of lampposts and things on fire, according to the Arizona Daily Star. However, it wasn't until he was leaving that TPD officers, dressed in riot gear and holding shields and batons, began throwing crowd-dispersing grenades.

According to the Star, Knepper said he turned to look back at the crowd as he was walking away, when he was hit in the eye with a beanbag round fired from a police shotgun.

When Daryl Audilett, the city's attorney, asked Knepper Tuesday if he thought he was somewhat responsible for his injury, Knepper said he never believed he was in danger. He added that he never heard police ask anyone to leave, according to the Star.

Knepper, who now attends Pima Community College, has a prosthetic eye and said he faces numerous other surgeries.

Seven other people were struck by less-lethal weapons during the riots.

Jurors will hear more police depositions this week. The trial will continue every Tuesday through Friday until May 2, at the latest.

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