Eric Calhoun has been blind since birth. However, he has not let his disability stop him from exploring the world around him, especially when it comes to his love of sports! For 20 years, Calhoun has been attending college baseball games throughout Southern California. Calhoun uses baseball games as an escape from his day-to-day problems. Throughout his life, he has been kicked out of everything from clubs to karaoke bars because he is there without supervision. But baseball games were different for him. At the baseball games, Calhoun had never been criticized for his disability, kicked out of a ballpark, or had any incidents on a college campus, that is until recently.
Early last month, Calhoun reported that he was accosted by six police officers from the Azusa Police Department while he was on the campus of Azusa Pacific University (APU) to attend a college baseball game. According to Calhoun, the officers pulled their guns on him and he was told to put his hands up in the air. Calhoun, who was unaware that he was being arrested, did not put his hands up until the second time.
“I was told that the officers got a complaint that I had a gun on my person,” said Calhoun.
The complaint came from an APU student.
“Next the officers started to insult me and telling me that I should not be wearing this [referring to his walking cane] to campus anymore. I tried to explain to them that it’s a cane, it’s a white cane that I use and it belongs in a holder. But they didn’t buy it,” he said.
During the incident, Calhoun was tased in the chest and both legs by one of the officers which resulted in the giving of a tearful plea for the officers to stop. Later, an ambulance arrived on the scene to check Calhoun’s body for any injuries. He did not sustain any injuries aside from bruising.
Following the incident, Calhoun was served with a notice of trespass from the university.
“I tried to file a complaint and I was told I am not allowed to come back to campus because the trespass order is in effect. I told them there is no reason for me to have a trespass order if I have a cane on my person. You cannot mistake a cane for a gun…it is a totally different thing.”
Soon after, Calhoun notified the Azusa Police Department claiming that he was falsely arrested. He was then told by the department that they would notify him. However, as of press time, Calhoun was not contacted by the department.
The Los Angeles Sentinel reached out to Azusa PD and they had this to say:
“On February 2, 2018, Azusa police officers responded to Azusa Pacific University, where two female students reported seeing a possible armed gunman. Officers located the suspected gunman and directed him to put his hands above his head. The suspect did not comply with the officers’ commands and instead reached into his waistband. Officers took action in response to the safety threat, including deploying a TASER and briefly physically restraining the suspect. Officers then determined that the suspect was not armed, that he was blind, and released the man.
During a discussion with the officers, the man acknowledged that he did not comply with the officers’ request to keep his hands up even though he did hear them identify themselves as police officers. Officers summoned paramedics, who found no injuries and then the officers ensured that the man safely boarded his transportation vehicle.
Given the dangerous nature of the job police officers do and all of the incidents that have taken place across the country involving school shootings, the responding officers are commended for their prompt response to concerns of a possible armed gunman on a university campus, their professionalism, and most importantly their restraint in resolving the situation safely and quickly.
Per protocol, a complaint on this matter is under investigation, including a review of surveillance video from the area. Because the investigation is ongoing, additional details cannot be discussed at this time.”
Currently, Calhoun is seeking legal advice from the office of Brian T. Dunn and hopes to settle out of court first. Additionally, Calhoun is seeking monetary damages and “more than just an apology.”
“Clearly, Mr. Calhoun had not broken the law,” said Dunn, Calhoun’s attorney.
“Also there is an issue in regards to Azusa Pacific University to the extent that they are trying to forbid him from being able to come onto the campus again and that action would only be justified if he had committed a crime and in this situation it is clearly obvious that he hadn’t. We are in a situation where we need to make a difference and making sure this type of thing doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
An APU Public Relations representative informed the Sentinel that the trespass order has since been dropped and that Calhoun is welcomed to attend the university’s home baseball games. Although the incident happened over a month ago, Calhoun expressed that he is still suffering from emotional trauma in addition to loss of sleep and nightmares.