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Congressman addresses Eugene Taser incident.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

Oregon Congressman David Wu, the first and only Chinese-American to serve in the House, has weighed in on a controversial incident in Eugene in which a police officer used a Taser to stun a Chinese college student who was mistaken for a trespasser in his own apartment.

Wu, a Democrat who represents northwestern Oregon's 1st District, wrote a letter Tuesday to University of Oregon officials addressing the Sept. 22 encounter that has prompted a city investigation into officer Judd Warden's use of the Taser on the 19-year-old foreign student.

"I am writing to extend my sympathies and offer my support for an expeditious resolution to the unfortunate `tasing' incident ... involving two Chinese students at the University of Oregon," the letter states.

"Everyone in the United States - whether they are from Chico or Chengdu - should feel secure within their own homes," Wu wrote. "A nation that prides itself on a fair-minded and uniformly applicable system of justice must exercise these principles at all times and without exception.

"Please know that I share your interest in a fair and transparent outcome which reflects our nation's broad-based commitment to the preservation of civil liberties."

Wu's press secretary, Julie Krahe, said Thursday that the letter refers "to the entire situation. We know there is an ongoing investigation involving police, and also that this must be having an ongoing impact on the students."

Wu's congressional district stretches from Portland to the north coast. While he doesn't represent the Eugene area, Wu still felt a responsibility to address the incident because "he is very concerned with issues of human rights and civil liberties," Krahe said.

Wu is the latest elected official - but the first from outside Eugene - to address the incident. Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy and city Councilor George Brown both have said that it concerns them.

Robin Holmes, UO's vice president of student affairs, said Thursday that university officials appreciate the fact that Wu wrote the letter.

"Congressman Wu has been an ally of the university for many years," Holmes said. "We thank him for extending his offer of support to the University of Oregon and the students involved."

Another group that has expressed concern about the incident is the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. The group's co-chairwoman, June Arima Schumann of Portland, said Thursday that she supports Wu's willingness to address it.

"I agree with his decision to raise concerns, and I think his letter is important," she said. "This is the sort of thing that should be discussed and not set aside."

The Sept. 22 incident unfolded at a West 11th Avenue townhouse. The student and his roommate, who is also 19 and a Chinese citizen, moved into the rented unit earlier that day. Police went there after someone reported seeing people they believed to be trespassers inside.

Officers went inside the townhouse and handcuffed one of the students before Warden confronted the other in an upstairs bedroom. According to a police report, Warden said he somehow tripped and fell to the floor after the student did not respond to repeated commands to show his hands.

Warden wrote in the report that he got up and fired his stun gun at the student - who was seated on the floor - because he feared the student "was coming at me to potentially hurt me" and continued to ignore his commands.

Officers later learned that the students did not understand English. The teens had just arrived in Eugene to take basic English classes at the UO.

The students' landlord realized shortly after the officer used his Taser that the students were the unit's rightful occupants, and police let them go.

City officials expect that the investigation focusing on Warden's actions will be completed next month.

The department's Taser policy is also under review. The Eugene Police Commission, a volunteer body, has been examining the policy since earlier this year.
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Title Annotation:City/Region; David Wu calls for a "fair and transparent outcome" to the probe into an encounter between police and students
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 20, 2009
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