Police chief OK with officer’s usage of pepper spray during September 2015 incident

By Gary Scott on April 7, 2016 at 12:34pm

A Jacksonville police officer using pepper spray on a crowd of people- within the rules, or an unnecessary tactic?

Last month, Anthony Stephens, who has filed a complaint with the Jacksonville Human Relations Commission regarding a separate alleged incident, told us about something that happened at the Circle K on North Main Street last fall.

Our news organization submitted a Freedom of Information Act and received several dashboard camera videos when police responded to a disturbance at the gas station shortly after 2:45 a.m. on Sunday, September 27th.

Police had just finished up responding to two stabbing incidents elsewhere in the city and a criminal damage case at the Jacksonville Journal-Courier office all within an hour prior to the disturbance.

We’re told this wasn’t connected to those incidents, but that officers didn’t know it at the time.

Police arrived after the gas station’s manager called in a complaint. Three people were arrested for subsequently resisting a peace officer.

As officers were in the process of arresting one of the individuals, one of the dashcam videos, when combined with a cell phone video that’s been shared with us, show about one or two dozen people migrating towards the area where the arrest was taking place, filming it with their cell phones.

You then hear, “last time I’m telling you!”, and see the same people running away, and a cloud of what appears to be pepper spray. The video appears to show Lieutenant Doug Thompson as the one who deployed the spray, a detail confirmed by Jacksonville police officials.

You can hear what sounds like one of the police officers involved talking to another regarding what happened in the dashcam video:

You can also hear officers telling one of the individuals that was arrested that he was told multiple times to go home.

Jacksonville Police Chief Tony Grootens says this was a matter of self-defense.

“Our officers responded and broke up numerous fights. They made arrests, and during the process of one of the arrests, the officers felt threatened by the crowd that was moving in on them, and they deployed pepper spray,” says Grootens.

“They can deploy pepper spray in defense of themselves and others, and they felt like they were defending themselves because they were enclosed by a violent group that was screaming and cursing at them for making the arrest that they made,” he adds.

Two of the three individuals arrested are still having their cases go through the Morgan County judicial system. A third pleaded guilty to obstructing a peace officer in January.

You can view the video of this incident from last September by clicking below: