Police use pepper spray to break up fight at teen night at Aquaport

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MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO  - A teen night at Aquaport in Maryland Heights ended with police responding and one officer using pepper spray to try and restore peace.  Police said a fight broke out as the night ended and some 500 to 600 teens aged 13 to 17 headed for the exit on Saturday night around 11 p.m.

“For a period of about 10 minutes there was a lot of chaos,” said Maryland Heights Police Chief Bill Carson.  He said in addition to the fight, “There were police officers actually trying to break up small disturbances here and there.”

Carson said when the fight started just outside the exit, the crowd of teens rushed toward the area and one his officers used pepper spray.  He said officers also cycled their tasers meaning they were making noises so the crowd could hear them.  He said, “We were trying to peacefully and quickly de-escalate a situation that was starting to get out of hand.”

Jana Gamble is a parent of one of the teens who attended the event.  She said the teens were predominately African-American and believe the department’s response would have been less aggressive if the teens would have been predominately white.  She said, “We have to learn a different way to police properly and de-escalate situations and to take care of the people no matter what color they are.”

She believes the sounding of the tasers and the use of pepper spray were not necessary.

“Their responsibility is to de-escalate things and calm people down and make people safe, said Gamble. “It was completely the wrong tactic.”

Carson said no injuries were reported and no arrests were made.  He does not believe race played a role in the response of his officers and said police body camera video and surveillance video will be reviewed to see if anything could have been done differently.  He said, “This was simply officers trying to preserve the peace and keep kids from getting hurt.”

The City of Maryland Heights released the following statement today regarding an incident that took place at Teen Night at the AquaPort outdoor swim park:

"At the end of a mostly peaceful Teen Night, fights and other disturbances broke out on the parking lot with hundreds of guests on the scene. A female Maryland Heights police officer broke up one fight using pepper spray on the participants, and other officers sounded their tasers to disperse the loud crowd. Order was restored in less than 15 minutes, no injuries were reported and nobody was detained by police. We will be looking at the body camera footage to determine if our officers on the scene responded appropriately and to determine what if any changes could be made to control crowds at future events.

We cannot comment further until the incident report is submitted and body camera footage is reviewed."

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