Bystanders hit with pepper spray

While walking up Church Street at 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday, Hannah Wilson did not expect to get hit with pepper spray. A male Burlington police officer used pepper spray in an attempt to break up a fight on Church Street and in the process sprayed bystanders, senior Camille Fordy said.   “It was a small fight of maybe two or three people,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t even sure what I had been hit with, but I knew it wasn’t good when my eyes started burning and I lost vision.” Wilson, a senior at Texas A&M University, said she was visiting a friend at UVM for the weekend. One person was arrested and bystanders were affected by the airborne particles, Lt. Jennifer Morrison of the Burlington Police Department said. Pepper spray is one of several tools used by the Burlington Police Department to break up fights, Morrison said. “Pepper spray is one of the best forms of deterrent because it is the least invasive in that it doesn’t leave you permanently harmed,” sophomore Mia Smith said. Fordy said she did not believe the fight was big enough to warrant the use of pepper spray. “No one stopped to watch [the fight],” Fordy said. “I didn’t even realize anything was wrong until a friend [hit with pepper spray] collapsed onto his knees and a second girl [also hit with pepper spray] grabbed onto a nearby friend and started to cry.” Morrison said she could not release more information because the police report was not complete. However, she said that it is not uncommon for pepper spray to affect more than its intended target. “Pepper spray is not a laser beam,” Morrison said. A main cause of pepper spray hitting an unintended source can be as simple as wind, she said. “Pepper spray should be used in dire situations and only when absolutely necessary, otherwise it doesn’t seem fair or safe,” senior Erica Weinberg said.