Accounts differ in use of pepper spray to break up campus fight

By David Gonzalez

Champaign police have defended their use of pepper spray to break up a fight Saturday in the Green Street Towers apartment building, 616 E. Green St., but several people who were on the receiving end of the spray have complained that the action was unnecessary.

Police said they do not know the initial cause of the fight. Several men walking on the street reported that residents of the building were throwing glass bottles off a balcony toward them and broken glass was found outside by officers, but it has not been established as the source of the disagreement.

Police were dispatched to the scene shortly after midnight.

The two officers estimated about 50 people were involved in or observing an argument inside the building when they arrived. About 20 people left the scene when the officers came off the elevator.

“The police officers gave several orders for the crowd to stop fighting and they didn’t comply,” said Rene Dunn, spokesperson for the department. “They were still exchanging words and the group began to fight (physically) and more joined in and some left.”

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The police then used pepper spray to stop the fight. The police attempted to find out why they were fighting. No one involved would talk to the police, so officers left the scene without making any arrests, Dunn said.

Some individuals who were either involved or around the fight have a different story. Two men who wished to remain anonymous said the officers arrived on the scene without identifying themselves as police and sprayed the crowd without warning. One of the men said he didn’t know if the officers were with a police department or building security.

“When the police showed up no one was fighting. The police just showed up and didn’t say anything and just sprayed everyone with pepper spray and then left,” the man said.

“They just left and no one I talked to got questioned,” said the other man. “The police didn’t even talk to the people who weren’t pepper sprayed.”