Video shot by a teenager and obtained recently by The Wash raises questions about the actions of some DC Metropolitan police officers during what was described as a “disorderly affray.”
According to a police report, a cruiser responded on October 13 to a parking lot adjacent to the Wawa convenience store on 40th Street NW.
Initial reports circulated on social media by DC Police stated, “The crowd of approximately 300 juveniles was dispersed from the immediate area.”
The report did not state how they were dispersed, but video and audio recordings from that night show they did so, in part, using MPD-issued Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) spray.
Among those concerned about this tactic is a parent whose child obtained a video of the incident. She agreed to speak with The Wash if we withheld her identity. She did not want her high school-aged child to get in trouble.
“I have a video of the police macing the students. And I have a video of students inside the Wawa grabbing milk to put milk on their eyes ’cause they can’t see,” the mother told The Wash.
In addition to parental concerns over the use of pepper spray on teens, the parent said there were nowhere near 300 students present.
The Department later issued a new police report and said that about 50 juveniles were on the scene, with approximately 10 directly engaging in the altercation that erupted around 8 p.m. Despite the upheaval, no injuries were reported.
“I was just disheartened by the way it came out, and the correction was done kind of like it wasn’t a huge mistake. From 300 to 30 to 50 is a significant difference,” The source said.
— Alan Henney (@alanhenney) October 15, 2023
Captain Darren Haskis of the District Metropolitan Police Department, addressing the overestimation, clarified, “Post a high school football game, what started as a dispute unfortunately escalated. We recognize and understand the concerns surrounding the initial overestimation.”
Based on the video, we can see several juveniles arguing and fighting outside of the Wawa. One officer is seen trying to move the crowd along while two other officers in another part of the parking lot shoot pepper spray at another group of teens.
The video also shows teenagers running inside the Wawa store, grabbing milk and pouring it into their eyes, a well-known relief from the burning sensation caused by OC spray.
The Wash asked the police about its protocols.
Captain Haskis said, “Our officers are equipped with MPD-issued Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) spray for specific scenarios. However, its use on those under 12 is very restricted unless in dire situations.”
The Tenleytown Wawa convenience store is located 0.2 miles from Jackson-Reed High School, which hosted a football game against Dunbar High School on the night of the brawl.
When approached by the Wash about the incident, Jackson-Reed High School officials declined to comment on whether they were aware of the disturbance and if students had been disciplined.
However, the District of Columbia Public Schools(DCPS) said it had knowledge of the incident.
Kera Tyler, DCPS Public Information Officer, confirmed the involvement of Jackson-Reed High School students. Tyler further emphasized the broader implications of such incidents on the school environment.
“We don’t want that type of conflict to impact our students or to carry over to other campuses. The school is actively working to remediate the situation between students,” Tyler said.
Given the uptick in juvenile-related incidents, Captain Haskis highlighted the MPD’s approach.
“We’re not just reacting to situations but also actively collaborating with schools and communities. Post the Wawa incident, we intensified our patrols around Jackson-Reed High School and took measures to prevent any escalation,” Haskis said.
The Wash tried to talk to Wawa staff about the incident. The store manager, citing company policy, declined to comment.