NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - In a FOX 8 exclusive, two former Xavier University police officers say they were wrongfully terminated following the school’s annual midnight breakfast last week. We’re not using their names or showing their faces to protect their privacy.
“I feel like I was wrongfully fired from the university because I was helping my fellow officer,” said one of the officers.
“Everything we did we relied back on our training. It was everything we were taught in the police academy,” the second officer said.
The university fired the officers after students said they used excessive force following the breakfast. Students told FOX 8 they were told to clean up their mess then were locked in the cafeteria. The situation escalated even more when students said pepper spray was used.
“I seen a large crowd, like a stampede of students running across the floor,” said one of officers.
The officers said more than 1,100 students attended that breakfast, and the officers were trying to get control of an aggressive crowd.
“In doing so, I was pushed aggressively into the door by a male student," one officer said. "Relying back on my training, I threw him onto the floor, created distance between myself and the threat, at which time the male student proceeded off the floor, came toward me and started swinging. At that time, myself and the male student became involved in a physical altercation, and I found myself surrounded by several of his peers. Shortly after, I could hear my partner in a crowd, you know, giving verbal commands as she tried to pull the students off me.”
“I seen my partner surrounded by several students," the other officer said. "It was more than seven. That’s when I reacted to get them off of him, and as I tried to get them off him, they surrounded me.”
“I gave a one-second blast of pepper spray into the crowd,” the first officer said. "After I deployed the pepper spray, I took the individual into custody for my protection and for his protection.”
According to a Xavier University police report of the incident, it was a cafeteria employee - not the officers - who locked the gate and told the students they needed to pick up their trash before leaving. That police report also says a university dean instructed the officer to remove the cuffs from the detained student because he was not going to be arrested, even though, according to the officer, that student committed battery on the officer.
“We used the amount of force necessary to control the situation, which was pepper spray,” said one of the officers.
“It was too many surrounding us, so he had to use his pepper spray,” the officer’s partner said.
We reached out to Xavier University about the officers' claims. We were told the school cannot comment on personnel matters.
But, in a university statement following the incident last week, Xavier President Dr. Reynold Verret said: “the well-being and safety of every Xavier University student is of paramount importance, and we will ensure that we hold ourselves and each other accountable for any action that violates that commitment or does not abide with our mission.”