John A. Pike III, identified as the police officer who pepper-sprayed a line of sitting Occupy movement protesters Friday on the University of California, Davis campus may have more in common with the discontented 99 percent than previously suspected.
Pike, who was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into the Nov. 18 incident, last year emerged from a bankruptcy where creditors took possession of his pickup truck, his wedding ring, his barbecue grill, several handguns, and even $265 worth of clothing.
Pike earns more than $110,000 a year as a UC Davis police lieutenant. But federal court records and county mortgage records reveal that Pike and his wife, Erica, borrowed heavily before the 2008 financial crisis, and were left insolvent when the value of their Roseville home declined.
Attempts to reach Pike and his attorney for comment were unsuccessful.
Over the weekend, Pike went from being a down-on-his-luck university police officer to becoming a global rallying symbol for Occupy movement protesters. Videos of Pike methodically directing streams of orange-tinted pepper spray into the faces of student protesters as they sat passively with their arms linked began circulating online Friday night. By the weekend, the videos were being broadcast on televisions and computer screens worldwide. By Monday, hundreds of websites had published Pike’s home address and police cell phone number.
UC officials said Pike and other officers were responding to a tense situation in which they were surrounded by students.
Protesters countered that photographs and videos depicted a relatively calm situation in which Mr. Pike, appearing nonchalant, begins dousing the seated protesters. Eleven demonstrators were treated for spray-related injuries, and two were taken to a hospital.
Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi said she had instructed police to avoid violence. As calls for her resignation increased this week, Katehi asked the Yolo County district attorney to investigate the incident. On Tuesday the University of California president, Mark G. Yudof, appointed William J. Bratton, a former Los Angeles police chief, to review the incident. A UC Davis spokesman said Wednesday that the officers would remain on leave pending the conclusion of the investigations.
Federal bankruptcy records and Placer County mortgage records show that Pike and his wife took out a second mortgage on their Roseville house in 2006. At the time of their Dec. 28, 2009, bankruptcy filing, Pike owed $450,000 on the property. This week the house was being offered in a short sale for $274,000, said Darren Brewer, an agent with Security Pacific Real Estate.
According to bankruptcy records, Pike has lost more than his home, despite income he described in bankruptcy filings as $127,000 per year.
Creditors took his furniture, his wine refrigerator, his camping equipment, his $3,000 wedding ring, and three handguns valued at $490, bankruptcy records show.