Did a cop pepper-spray a pizza during a routine traffic stop? That’s the charge that 30-year-old Orange County Sheriff’s deputy Juan Tavera will face when he’s arraigned in Newport Beach, California on Monday.
According to reports in NBC Southern California and the Los Angeles Times, an unnamed 19-year-old was pulled over for a traffic stop in 2012. While he was being questioned by the officer, Tavera also arrived on the scene and apparently took a look around the car.
The teen was released, went home, and shared the pizza with four friends. They all got sick (if you believe NBC) or least experienced discomfort (the LAT’s version).
That’s when the light dawned upstairs. They figured out that the cop had pepper-sprayed their pizza.
I think if I went to the New Orleans Police Department with a story like that, I’d be laughed out of town. But apparently the Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigated — and now Tavera is on unpaid leave.
He will be charged with misdemeanor assault by a public officer. If convicted, he faces as much as a year in jail.
Did it happen? That’s for a court to decide. But I have to assume that Orange County doesn’t normally bring cases against its own deputies without pretty strong evidence of wrong-doing.
But there’s another question.
Some people around the internet think pepper-spray is a perfectly good food. Or at least they pretend to think so. They are more or less calling out the five teens as a bunch of whiners for saying they got sick for eating the spicy pizza.
A few trolls here and there claimed that they pepper-sprayed their food for flavor. Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t.
Why don’t we look and see what happens when somebody does that live on video?
So that’s fairly unpleasant.
I think we can rule out the theory that the cop pepper-sprayed the pizza just to add a hint of spice.