Wednesday, November 28, 2012
An attorney for an Old Town club whose surveillance cameras captured police using tear gas to get a large crowd to scatter early last Friday morning believes more people were put in danger when the gas was deployed.
James Thompson, who represents Doc Howard's says several people could have been severely injured in the panic that he says ensued after police used the tear gas canister.
"People are trying to get back into the club or trying to climb over each other," Thompson said, describing video images captured by surveillance cameras inside the club. "People got injured as a result of this and that was a direct cause of the tear gas."
Video captured inside and outside the club early Friday shows the crowd leaving a little before 2 a.m., according to a time stamp on the video provided Thompson provided to KAKE News. Just after 1:50 a.m., police release a tear gas canister and the crowd scatters as a small gas cloud rises.
"The police chief (Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams) made the point that it was effective and, obviously it was effective," Thompson said. "But just because something's effective, doesn't make it the right course of action."
Chief Williams said Wednesday tear gas was used because there were several disturbances going on in the 200 block of North Mosley as clubs in Old Town were closing for the night and a police department supervisor decided to use tear gas to clear the crowd before any violence could break out.
"We were not going to send officers in there to get hurt," Williams said.
Thompson disagreed that there were several disturbances.
"There does appear to be a fight about to break out near where the police are, but that's not anything that's necessarily unusual when you have 2,000 people out there," he said.
The attorney also disagrees that using tear gas was appropriate. He believes the use of pepper spray would have been as effective in clearing the crowd.
"That's a limited response," Thompson said. "That's limited to the people involved in the altercation, whereas this was just an indiscriminate gassing of 1,200 people."
Williams said he feels the supervisor who made the decision to use tear gas acted appropriately. There were fewer officers in the area because it was Thanksgiving, he said, combined with a large crowd and what he described as several disturbances.
"He felt it was the most effective tool he had at the time," Williams said.