Three weeks after a surprise encounter with two officers from the UC Davis Police department, Fayia Sellu, a former UC Davis student, was still shocked by the incident. But he was also thankful that he did not react to the police in a manner that might have caused them to use force against him.
He told the Vanguard that he was surprised that this incident occurred on the campus. Mr. Sellu, a black man, has often noticed police vehicles in the city of Davis that do u-turns and stop to observe him as he walks or rides his bicycle, but he had never had a problem on the campus.
As a former student, he has often utilized the 24-hour reading room on the side of Shields Library to do late night reading and studying. He told the Vanguard he had seen the two officers enter the reading area, but thought nothing about it as he was soon absorbed in his reading – when he discovered the two officers were standing directly over him.
He now knows them by name – Officers Guerrero and Sheffield. When they approached they asked for identification. Rather than make a scene inside the reading room, he said, he was asked to go outside and sort out his identification. Believing there was some mistake, he complied.
However, the demeanor of the officers soon changed. “On approach of the lobby, Officer Sheffield dashed for my right armed and twisted it in a motion as to get me face down. Two other officers waiting in the wings of the lobby joined in and handcuffed me with no apparent tussle,” he said.
It became apparent by the swiftness of the officers’ actions that someone had phoned the police, concerned about his presence in the reading room.
He said, “I was told among other things that my student ID had expired, hence, terminating my access to the study lounge. I accepted that.”
But how would someone know that just by looking? However, his bigger complaint was his treatment and how the officers handled the situation.
Mr. Sellu told the Vanguard, “What baffled me however, and SHOOK me violently both physically and psychologically, is the over-zealousness with which the detention was carried out. I stepped out of the building I used to occupy as a student fairly recently, in handcuffs, to face four police escort SUVs parked at the curb outside.”
He noted, “That I was a student here during the notorious ‘Pepper Spray’ incident that still leaves residues of trauma in those of us who witnessed it, the actions of both officers toward me only stand to prove how much we have learned or how far we have come, or not, since that more-than unfortunate incident.”
Fayia Sellu was clearly shaken from this ordeal, meeting with the Vanguard three weeks later. His biggest concern was wondering how he might have reacted when they came at him with surprise force.
But he also feels betrayed.
He told the Vanguard, “As a student, an alum of the UC Davis, I wish to be proud, to both associate with, and inhabit the space, and am constrained to feel that way given the uncalled-for violent treatment meted out to me early today. I always use facilities on UC Davis campus with PRIDE, even as an alum, and wish for that to continue.”
He added, “However, that cannot preclude the trauma that we have to deal with in incidents like the Pepper Spray debacle and my personal encounter today. As a community and a school, both of which I have in lived for about a decade, it is both heart-rending and instructive of what more work needs to be done in how we police young people (especially black males) in the United States, period.”
Mr. Sellu told the Vanguard he has filed a complaint and has been working with university staff. At this point there has been no conclusion of that process or comment by the university.
—David M. Greenwald reporting