If a loved one died after being pepper sprayed in prison or while being
arrested, attorney Chris Mellino welcomes you to
contact our office for a free consultation.
What Is Pepper Spray?
Scientific American blogger Deborah Blum stated in 2011, some people hear the words “pepper
spray” and think it’s “something just a grade or so
above what we might mix up in a home kitchen. The description hints maybe
at that eye-stinging effect that the cook occasionally experiences when
making something like a jalapeno-based salsa: a little burn, nothing too
But when looking at the Scoville scale, which measures a pepper’s
impact, the jalapeno measures between 3,500 and 8,000 Scoville Heat Units
(SHU), cayenne pepper — which you may sprinkle on pizza —
measures between 30,000 and 50,000 SHU, and police-grade pepper spray
ranks around 5 million SHU.
Not only is police-grade pepper spray one ladder rung below pure capsicum
(at 15 million SHU), it’s mixed with chemicals.
“Depending on brand,” said researchers in 2004, “an OC
[Oleoresin Capsicum] spray may contain water, alcohols, or organic solvents
as liquid carriers; and nitrogen, carbon dioxide, or halogenated hydrocarbons
(such as Freon, tetrachloroethylene, and methylene chloride) as propellants
to discharge the canister contents. Inhalation of high doses of some of
these chemicals can produce adverse cardiac, respiratory, and neurologic
effects, including arrhythmias and sudden death.”
How Many People Have Been Pepper Sprayed to Death by Police?
It’s difficult to find statistics about the use of excessive force. As
Huffington Post‘s self-proclaimed agitator Radley Balko said in December 2012, police
organizations and the FBI track how many police officers are killed in
the line of duty, but “you won’t see … a slate of stories
about the number of citizens killed by police [this year]. Those data
just don’t exist at a national level.” Balko went on to quote
a newspaper article stating that “[n]o comprehensive accounting
for all the nation’s 17,000 police departments exists.”
FBI spokesman William Carr reportedly told another paper, “We don’t
have a mandate to do that. It would take a request from Congress for us
to collect that data.” Yet, as that paper noted, the FBI keeps tabs
on a million other statistics.
Why would police conceal the number of people who’ve been pepper
sprayed to death?
“When we get comprehensive data each year about the cops who were
killed and assaulted in the line of duty over the last 12 months, but
no data on how many people were killed and assaulted by police–justifiably
or not–over the same period,” said Balko, “it bends
the debate toward more support for giving cops more power, more weapons,
and more authority.”
Whatever the reason, between 2003 and 2009, a total of 4,813 people died
while under arrest, according to a study the National Criminal Justice
Reference Service (NCJRS) published. “[A]bout 6 in 10 deaths (2,931) were classified as homicide
by law enforcement personnel.”
Asthma and Pepper Spray: A Deadly Combination
Unfortunately, police never ask someone if he or she has asthma before
shooting pepper spray. As a February 2004
study showed, this can have deadly consequences.
In looking at 63 pepper spray-related deaths, Dr. Charles S. Petty found
that two involved “a disease-compromised airway,” per autopsy reports.
“Case O.C. 89 … was shown to have morphologic changes distinctly
attributable to a well-established asthma,” wrote Petty. “The
medical examiner who served as the medicolegal official certified the
death as asthma precipitated by the O.C. [pepper spray] used by the law
enforcement officers. As of the time of writing, not all of the details
of the confrontation are available.”
In the second case, police officers sprayed the victim several times (“more
than recorded for any of the other cases studied”), and the large,
obese victim — who was hand-cuffed and lying face-down — complained
he could not breathe. Mechanical interference with breathing may well
have been added to an already disease-compromised airway,” said Petty.
Why Should I Trust Attorney Chris Mellino to Handle My Pepper Spray Death
Lawsuit in Florida?
First, Mellino Law Firm does not advertise. Attorneys and satisfied clients
send us the majority of our cases. Others find us online.
Chris Mellino is well respected for his ability to dig below the surface and make sure
no fact is overlooked. Also, since 2010, Mellino Law Firm has been a member
of Primerus, which screens potential members by speaking to judges, other
lawyers, bar associations, clients, and insurance carriers about a firm’s
integrity, work product, fee structure, education, civility, and community service.
Third, some firms take every case that walks in the door, settle those
cases for the first amount the defendant offers in order to fund their
next commercial, and leave clients in the hands of “case managers.”
Wrongful death lawsuits are labor intensive, so we’re selective about the cases
we accept. By limiting how many clients we take on, we’re able to
give each claim the attention it deserves.
If a loved one was pepper sprayed to death by police, attorney Chris Mellino
invites you to contact our office with any questions you may have.