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College Chief, Lieutenant Suspended

May 16, 2003|Stephanie Chavez | Times Staff Writer

The Pasadena City College Board of Trustees suspended its campus police chief and a lieutenant and will begin an investigation into allegations that they used excessive force on at least two students during a campus antiwar rally last March.

Chief Philip Mullendore and Lt. Bradley Young will be placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the probe into the March 20 incident, said college spokesman Chuck Chaplin.

Two students allege that they were victims of unprovoked attacks by police who detained them, used pepper spray and struck one with a baton.

Mullendore has said that he and Young were defending themselves against agitated students bent on attacking them as they were making arrests.

The seven-member Board of Trustees voted in closed session Wednesday night to hire retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gabriel A. Gutierrez to oversee the investigation, which will be conducted by Larry Malmberg Investigation Security Inc. Malmberg will be joined by Fran Newman, the retired vice president of student services at Cerritos College.

Neither Mullendore, a 21-year veteran of the campus police force, nor Young, a three-year veteran, could be reached for comment Thursday.

The trustees' decision follows three meetings on the issue, prompted by student demands for a formal investigation.

Students Victor Mendoza, 27, and Marco Martinez, 20, have been cited with misdemeanor disturbing-the-peace violations. They are scheduled to be arraigned in Pasadena Superior Court next week. The two sides give differing accounts of the confrontation.

On March 21, Mullendore told The Times that about 200 students had gathered in the main quad for a peace rally the day before, which was the first full day of the war with Iraq. He said organizers had been told that they would not be permitted to enter the nearby "C" building to make rally announcements because some classes were taking midterms.

But 35 to 40 students entered the building and began opening classroom doors for impromptu announcements, Mullendore said. He told one leader to stop, but the student continued.

He said he and another officer escorted that student into a private office. A second student confronted the officers in the office and was arrested when he refused to leave.

Then, Mullendore said, five or six students pushed on the office door and broke the window. "We felt we were under attack," he said. "They opened the door and in came the crowd. So we had to use pepper spray and a baton to protect ourselves."

Mendoza said he helped to organize the antiwar rally, but was not told that he could not enter the building and he led a group of students inside. They were chanting antiwar slogans when he passed Mullendore in the hallway.

"He grabbed my sleeve, spun me around and told us to shut up," Mendoza said of Mullendore.

Mendoza, whose arm was in a sling from a previous injury, then went limp. He said Young dragged him into an office where he was forced to lie face-down for nearly an hour.

Outside, Mendoza said, students began shouting for officers to let him go. "People were scared," he said. At one point, Mendoza and Martinez said, the officers sprayed the crowd in the hallway with pepper spray.

Martinez said he was leaving a meeting when he stumbled on the scene and witnessed Young grab a friend of his, John Torres, by the neck and strike him on the face. When he tried to intervene, Martinez said, Young struck him on the knee with a baton and shot pepper spray in his eyes.

Michael D. Anderson, the attorney for the college's teachers' union who is assisting Mendoza and Martinez, said Torres escaped from the melee and no charges are pending against him. Torres and a fourth student demonstrator who was detained have filed complaints against the officers, Anderson said.

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