An internal Seattle O.P.A. investigation found that the pepper spraying was justified, as the sergeant had not intentionally aimed for the 7-year-old boy’s face.
A Washington father has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that Seattle police wrongfully pepper sprayed his under-age son during a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020.
According to KIRO-7, Armand Avery attended a B.L.M. rally near Seattle’s Westlake Mall with his 7-year-old son, identified only by the initials “A.J.”
Avery said he attended the protest alongside members of his church, who were upset over the extrajudicial killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
In his lawsuit, Avery claimed he was peacefully waiting for invited speakers to deliver their speeches when several other protesters “exchanged words” with local law enforcement.
Shortly afterward, police began pushing through the crowd.
Officers then indiscriminately began firing pepper spray at protesters—none of whom, Avery claims, were violent or visibly armed.
Avery says that he and his son were both doused with pepper spray, with his 7-year-old son sustain a direct hit to the face.
“He was crying out in pain and shaking,” Avery said, adding that his son’s face like it was on fire.
While a nearby protester tried to ease A.J.’s pain by pouring milk on his face, the milk had little discernible effect.
Avery then took his son home, putting him in the shower and giving him ice packets.
However, nothing Avery did seemed to help; he was then forced to take A.J. to a local hospital, where the boy was given a chemical ointment for chemical burns.
Unlike some other incidents of alleged police brutality, bystanders captured A.J.’s plight on camera: footage of the crying 7-year-old boy, covered in milk, prompted an estimated 13,000 people to file complaints with Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability.
However, a months-long investigation found that police had not intentionally targeted the boy.
“[A.J.] and his father moved toward a protester who had grabbed an officer’s baton and was pushing into the police line,” the O.P.A. wrote in an incident report. “An SPD supervisor used pepper spray to move the protester back. In response, the protester ducked, causing the pepper spray to inadvertently affect the boy and his father.”
The sergeant was found to have followed Seattle Police Department policy and was not punished for his actions.
A later review of the officers’ body camera footage also allegedly demonstrated that A.J. was not visible to police.
After the O.P.A. released its findings, an attorney for Avery said that the family is “deeply disappointed, but not surprised by the result reached by the O.P.A.”
Now, the family has filed suit, claiming that “the injuries experienced by the Plaintiffs continue to impact them emotionally,” as “A.J. and Armand did not do anything to justify being spread with O.C. spray. They were simply exercising their constitutional rights.”