University continues search for answers

Tuesday, October 31st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- A preliminary investigation by University of Oklahoma officials has found that four officers used pepper spray on people in a crowd that rushed onto Owen Field following the Sooners' 31-14 victory over Nebraska, officials said.

"According to the preliminary findings of the inquiry which I ordered into the use of pepper spray after the OU-Nebraska football game, it appears that officers involved came from four different entries: City of Moore police, City of Norman police, Norman Schools security force and OU Health Sciences Center police," OU President David Boren said in a news release on Monday.

Officials spent part of the day reviewing tapes and photographs and checking supervisors reports to try to determine the sequence of events that led to the officers' actions.

Boren would not release the names of the officers involved, but said all of the agencies are cooperating with the probe.

"It is very possible this agent was used after it was discovered that a young woman, a freshman student, was on the ground with the crowd surging toward her," Boren said during an OU Board of Regents meeting in Tulsa.

"Of course, the crowd didn't realize she had fallen on the ground."

The student, who was not named, suffered some bruises but did not need hospitalization. Boren said the officers were able to move her quickly out of harm's way.

Boren told the regents he had anticipated fans might try to topple the goal post and told the university's chief of security, Joe Lester, to instruct all security to avoid using force. The force, which included the use of chemical sprays, was not to be used to protect property, but in extreme situations endangering human life.

The spray was released in the south end zone where celebrating fans were tearing down the goal post.

Boren warned against rushing to judgment.

"If indeed, the agents were used to protect the life or prevent physical harm to this young woman who had fallen on the ground, obviously that is a situation within our policy -- it would have been a dire emergency or life threatening," he said.

About 50 security officers worked at the game, said Lt. Bruce Chan, OU police spokesman.

When the game ended, about 15 officers surrounded each goal post.

None of the sprayed reported any lasting effects, officials said.