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Report: Raleigh Police Used Expired Tear Gas, Arrested 106 From Protests

Raleigh Police Cruiser
PDpolicecars, via Flickr

Raleigh police used expired tear gas on demonstrators during protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, according to a report released Tuesday.

Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown told the City Council there have been 106 arrests stemming from the protests and more warrants are still outstanding.

The News & Observer reports that the review of the police department's response and use of force during the protests also found that police used tear gas unnecessarily in one instance.

Fourteen officers were injured, and 17 police vehicles were damaged during the protests, according to the report.

Police in Raleigh responded to more than 200 incidents of burglary and property damage – along with six arsons – during the week of May 30 according to the department's after-action report.

Deck-Brown said police response to the unrest of that week cost more than $900,000, and $12,000 was spent on munitions deployed against crowds of people.

Deck-Brown reflected on her reasoning for meeting with a group who violated the citywide curfew later in the week to picket.

“In a crisis, you cannot arrest your way out of the crisis, and definitely not one like this,” she said. “They were over the curfew, and that is true, but they were peaceful.”

After an initially peaceful demonstration May 30, law enforcement officers repeatedly launched tear gas and foam batons — also known as rubber bullets — at protesters. Some demonstrators threw water bottles, rocks and fireworks at police. Downtown windows were smashed and some stores were robbed.

Deck-Brown said it was the first time the department deployed tear gas in 46 years.

“It is not a common occurrence to deploy these types of munitions or this amount of munitions in our city,” she said. “So we don't take it lightly, and we shouldn't."

At least one of the department’s uses of tear gas was a mistake, according to the report.

“This should not have happened,” Deck-Brown said.

The report said officers used tear gas to clear a street for an ambulance needed on a nearby medical call. The ambulance call was canceled, but word did not get to officers on the scene.

Deck-Brown also apologized to the GoRaleigh staff whose buses were commandeered by police officers that week.

The report also confirms that some of the tear gas canisters used were expired.

“While the RPD did deploy some expired gas canisters, there is no scientific evidence to support claims that expired CS (tear) gas contains harmful levels of cyanide,” according to the report.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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