A police officer in Kansas City, MO, has been indicted for assault after spraying chemicals into the face of a 15-year-old black girl during a protest last summer after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The story is a stunner for at least two reasons: (1) I can't think of another instance where a cop has faced criminal accountability after use of non-lethal force; (2) Jackson County (home to Kansas City) is 23.27 percent black and 70.10 percent white, meaning the grand jury likely was racially mixed -- and suggesting perhaps that members of both races are growing tired of police abuse, especially against the black community. From a report at Fox4kc.com:
A Jackson County grand jury has indicted a Kansas City police officer who sprayed a juvenile last May during protests at the Country Club Plaza, prosecutors say.
Nicholas M. McQuillen has been charged with one count of misdemeanor fourth-degree assault.
Court records say the 38-year-old Kansas City officer recklessly caused injury to the juvenile, who is only referred to as N.M. in the jury’s indictment, when he sprayed “fogger spray” into the girl’s face on May 30 at the Plaza.
What led to the spraying incident, which was caught on a viral video? (See video above.)
The indictment says the girl arrived at the Plaza with her father, siblings and others around 5 p.m. to attend the protest near Mill Creek Park. They were there for 30-45 minutes.
The jury reviewed various videos of the incident, including drone footage from the Kansas City Police Department and cell phone video.
That cell phone video shows that the protesters were in the park and on the sidewalks while KCPD officers lined the streets, facing them, according to the indictment.
Court records say KCPD approached an unidentified man near N.M. three times, repeatedly telling him to get back on the sidewalk or he would be arrested. The man disputed these allegations and said he did not hear the officers.
The cell phone video shows the girl standing on the sidewalk as the man makes statements at police, apparently standing on the street.
Court records say McQuillen then gets another officer’s attention, points toward the man and approached with the fogger spray in hand. The protesters stepped back onto the sidewalk. The man and N.M. both said the officer didn’t say anything about the man being under arrest or that N.M. should get out of the way.
When McQuillen and the other officer approach the protester, they reach for him to take him into custody. People or family members with the man attempt to pull him back, but N.M. did not participate or pull the officer.
Court documents say the video shows McQuillen pull the man into N.M. and then forward. The movement, according to the cell video, forces N.M. between the two men and the girl touched the officer’s vest.
At that point, McQuillen is seen raising the fogger spray to the girl’s face/eye level and spraying in close proximity. N.M. said she reached for her face and pulled farther back into the crowd.
According to her testimony, she experienced blurred vision, pain and a burning sensation in her eyes for some time.
McQuillen declined to provide a statement to investigators. He will receive a summons to appear in court at a future date, prosecutors say.
Police officials are standing behind McQuillen:
The Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 99 issued the following statement after the indictment was announced Friday night:
“The FOP is aware of the misdemeanor charge brought against Kansas City, MO Police Officer McQuillen.
“The FOP is very disappointed that the Prosecuting Attorney would bring such a charge when Officer McQuillen employed the lowest level of force available to him. The use of OC spray is an extraordinarily valuable tool that often results in the de-escalation of a given situation. And, the individual here had no injuries or lasting effects from the use of the OC spray.
“We believe this charge has no merit and the FOP will fully support Officer McQuillen as he challenges it in Court.”
A lawsuit has been filed over the incident. Tom Porto, an attorney for the juvenile's family told the Kansas City Star:
Attorney Tom Porto, who is representing the victim, said in a statement Friday that the officer’s charged conduct is “absolutely indefensible.”
“A 15-year-old girl had the equivalent of bear spray sprayed in her face from centimeters away,” Porto said. “The grand jury got it right.”
On a personal note, I was pepper sprayed in the face, while inside my own home, during my "arrest for blogging" in 2013. Would I have supported criminal charges brought against Officer Chris Blevins in that case? Absolutely. Was there any chance of that happening in Shelby County, AL? No.