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Landlord arrested for vandalism in attempt to evict UCLA students before end of lease

University police arrested a landlord for vandalism in his attempt to evict UCLA students before their lease expired. (Daniel Leibowitz/Daily Bruin)

By Elizabeth Sherwood

Sept. 18, 2020 4:48 p.m.

University police arrested a landlord in late August in his attempt to evict several UCLA students before their lease expired.

Stephen Copen, a nephrologist at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who owns several Beverly Hills properties, rented out his 611 Gayley Ave. property to a group of fraternity brothers of the UCLA Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. The students’ 11-month lease was set to end Aug. 31.

On the afternoon of Aug. 31, Copen arrived at the room of Aidan McNulty and Owen Kiokemeister and began to change the locks without warning, said McNulty, a third-year political science student. Copen called UCPD to try to get the tenants to vacate. Upon arrival, UCPD officers informed Copen that the tenants were allowed to stay in the room until midnight, when the lease officially ended, McNulty said. Copen complied and left the property.

Copen then returned to the property with his wife and demanded that McNulty leave the premises. He then began forcibly removing personal items from the room, McNulty said. UCPD notified Kiokemeister, a third-year cognitive science student, that there had been a confrontation between Copen and McNulty, and Kiokemeister drove to the scene of the incident.

“Right as we got to the room, we saw Dr. Copen pick up and throw anything and everything in the room,” Kiokemeister said. “He literally picked up (McNulty’s) fish tank and threw it at the wall, shattering it. (Copen’s) wife was laughing while trying to prevent us from recording, … mocking us.”

A video captured by a witness shows Copen throwing McNulty’s valuables into a pile in the hallway. Copen caused thousands of dollars in damages to McNulty’s game consoles, TV and computer, McNulty said.

The tenants are heard trying to reason with Copen, who ignored them and continued to throw out the tenants’ personal property.

UCPD returned to the scene and found Copen taking a shower in the room. UCPD arrested Copen and cited him for vandalism, said UCPD spokesperson Scott Scheffler in an emailed statement. UCPD is conducting an ongoing investigation and cannot release any other specific details, Scheffler said in the statement.

Copen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It really just disgusts me that landlords can just get away with this,” Kiokemeister said. “(Copen) thinks that since we are students, we don’t know our rights or anything.”

Copen has a court date set for Nov. 4 at the Los Angeles Superior Court Airport Courthouse.

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Elizabeth Sherwood | Assistant News editor
Sherwood is the 2020-2021 Assistant News Editor for the City & Crime beat. She was previously a contributor for National News and Higher Education. She is a second year political science and communications student and digital humanities minor at UCLA.
Sherwood is the 2020-2021 Assistant News Editor for the City & Crime beat. She was previously a contributor for National News and Higher Education. She is a second year political science and communications student and digital humanities minor at UCLA.
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