Calif. Cop to be Arraigned for Pepper Spraying Teen’s Pizza

By Scott Wilson

Aug 7, 2013 3:45pm

A California deputy sheriff’s arraignment was postponed Monday after his attorney told ABCNews.com he never received police reports or evidence necessary to represent his client.

“As of yet, I haven’t received any police reports,” John Barnett, attorney for the accused Juan Tavera said. “So, I cannot comment on the case until I receive these police reports.”

According to the Orange County District attorney’s office Tavera is accused of pepper spraying a teenager’s pizza during a routine traffic stop last September.

“On Sept. 8, 2012, the defendant is accused of arriving on-scene after a 19-year-old John Doe was pulled over by a different officer for a traffic infraction in Laguna Hills,” according to a statement by police. “Upon arriving, the defendant is accused of finding a pizza on the backseat of the victim’s car and pepper spraying the pizza without the victim’s knowledge.”

The release also states that the teenager returned home and shared the pizza with four friends. When all five individuals became ill, they experienced “discomfort as a result of ingesting the pepper spray,” the release said.

A managing director for the San Francisco division of the California Poison Control System told ABCNews.com that pepper spray used by law enforcement often has a higher concentration of capsaicin, an active ingredient in hot peppers.

“Consuming capsaicin could cause irritation of the mouth and throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea,” Director Thomas Kearney said. “However, the reaction depends on how much pepper spray is consumed and the concentration of capsaicin. This reaction can vary from individual to individual.”

The OC District Attorney’s office would not comment further the individuals involved in the case.

District Attorney spokeswoman Farrah Amami confirmed to ABCNews.com that another officer was present at the time, but said there was “no indication [the other officer] knew this occurred.”

Tavera has been charged with one count of assault or battery by a police officer, a misdemeanor in California, an Orange County police officer said.  Tavera is expected to be arraigned later this month on Aug. 23.

“He continues to be on paid administrative leave,” Orange County Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Jeff Hallock told ABCNews.com. “The Sherriff’s Department was made aware of it in September and passed it along to the district attorney’s office.  They pressed charges six to eight weeks ago.”

According to the district attorney’s press release, if found guilty of the alleged misdemeanor, Tavera could face up to a year in state prison.

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