Tavera, 30, pulled over a 19-year-old kid for a traffic violation on Sept. 8, 2012. The teenager had a pizza in the backseat. When he got home, he and four friends became sick after eating the pizza. Pepper spray was suspected and they called the police about the traffic stop.
What is interesting is that Tavera is only charged with misdemeanor assault or battery by a public officer. He remains on paid administrative leave. Yet, pepper spray can be lethal to people with asthma or others with weakened physical conditions. There have been dozens of such deaths in Los Angeles. Poisoning food would seem to be a bit more serious than a simple misdemeanor.
The term pepper spray is a bit of a misnomer for OC (“Oleoresin Capsicum”). The active ingredient is indeed capsaicin, which is a chemical derived from chilis and other such plants. That is where the similarity ends however. Oleoresin capsicum is extracted using a solvent like ethanol. It is then turned into a resin and mixed with an emulsifier like propylene glycol.
I am unclear why the law below was not charged as opposed to the misdemeanor:
347. (a) (1) Every person who willfully mingles any poison or
harmful substance with any food, drink, medicine, or pharmaceutical
product or who willfully places any poison or harmful substance in
any spring, well, reservoir, or public water supply, where the person
knows or should have known that the same would be taken by any human
being to his or her injury, is guilty of a felony punishable by
imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or five years.
(2) Any violation of paragraph (1) involving the use of a poison
or harmful substance that may cause death if ingested or that causes
the infliction of great bodily injury on any person shall be punished
by an additional term of three years.
That would seem a more appropriate charge, particularly with an officer allegedly using police powers to carry out the crime. Perhaps I am missing something and one of our California lawyers can help us out on the charge selection.