UC Merced student charged in SF protest

19-year-old denies he struck officer with baton.

December 21, 2010 

The San Francisco District Attorney's Office filed felony and misdemeanor charges against a UC Merced student involved in a Nov. 17 protest over tuition increases at the school's Mission Bay Campus.

Four other students from other University of California schools accused of being involved in the altercation with UC police officers were also charged with felonies and misdemeanors. UC San Francisco police began serving arrest warrants Dec. 14.

Peter Howell, a 19-year old UC Merced student, was charged with a felony for disarming a police officer and three misdemeanor charges, according to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office.

The incident that led to Howell's arrest occurred when a group of 100 students crowded behind him in a parking garage and pushed him into officer Jared Kemper, a campus police officer from UC Irvine.

According to UC San Francisco campus Police Chief Pamela Roskowski, Howell grabbed the officer's baton and struck the officer on the head. The officer then drew his gun on the crowd in self-defense and called for assistance.

The attack occurred after Howell and a group of other protesters surrounded the police officer in a parking garage, Roskowski said.

"It was an angry and unruly and aggressive crowd," Roskowski said. "He had drawn his weapon to protect himself. He was very concerned about his safety."

Howell said in an earlier interview with the Sun-Star that he didn't take the officer's baton.

"I put my hands on my chest and backpedaled," Howell said in the interview. "I was trying to get away. (Officer Kemper) shoved through me, and he may have lost control of his baton. You can hear it rattle on the ground in a video. At no point did I strike him on the head, so I believe that statement was false."

Howell was referring to a video on KTVU.com, in which an audible rattle is heard after a struggle between Howell and Kemper.

"I feel like a great injustice has been done when there was clear video evidence," he said. "I don't feel like it was right for them to say that I was violent against the police officer when there were videos of the event. I would like to see an investigation launched into why officer Kemper pulled his gun on the crowd."

Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or joppenheim@mercedsun-star.com.

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