KOVR Reporter’s First-Hand Account of UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident: ‘I Was Shocked’

By Andrew Gauthier 

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KOVR reporter Checkey Beckford and photojournalist Dennis Marin were at the center of a news story that has swept across the country this week–so close that they felt the sting of pepper spray.

Beckford and Marin were positioned right behind a row of seated UC Davis students as a police officer in riot gear methodically dusted them with an orange stream of pepper spray last Friday afternoon. Beckford and Marin had a front row seat to an incident that has had major ramifications for the university and its community, one that has sparked a national debate and become a symbol for the Occupy protest as a whole.

“I would say I was probably 10-20, to the side and a little behind the group of seated students you see being sprayed in the video,” Beckford told TVSpy this week via email. “I mistakenly thought I would be unaffected but I suddenly found it hard to breathe and then I was coughing.”

Despite the cloud of pepper spray, Marin continued shooting and his video has been everywhere this week. Beckford and Marin were the only TV news crew to get close-up footage of the incident.

“Regardless of where you stand on whether pepper spray should have been used, I think people who see the video have pretty much the same reaction I did: shock,” Beckford told TVSpy:

In the rest of our video before the incident, you can see the two officers take out the pepper spray several minutes before it was actually used. I didn’t notice that at the time. Sensory overload; I was trying to take in all that was going on. But I didn’t feel any sort of menace in the crowd. I was able to weave in and out of the crowd easily. Most of the people there, seemed to just be students coming to see what was happening. Officers seemed to be moving freely, as well. So when the spraying began, I was as shocked as anyone, trying to understand how it had reached that point. However, I don’t for one second pretend to be a police officer who’s often forced to make split-second decisions. We’ll have to see what the investigation into the incident reveals.

Here’s the video…