Park City student admits to releasing pepper spray before Turning Point club event

Park Record file photo.
Carolyn Webber Alder/Park Record

A Park City High School senior facing 18 criminal charges admitted to releasing pepper spray in the school’s lecture hall last month to prevent a conservative school club from hosting an event.

The 18-year-old student on Friday admitted in 3rd District Juvenile Court to criminal mischief, a third-degree felony, as well as two counts of assault and one count of disrupting a meeting, all class B misdemeanors. Judge Elizabeth Knight dismissed the remaining 14 charges. The Park Record is not naming the student because he was a minor at the time of the incident.

The teen told Knight that he released the spray to protest an event put on by PCHS’s Turning Point club, a local chapter of the conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA. Will Witt, from Prager University, a nonprofit that produces videos promoting conservative views, was scheduled to speak at the school in the evening.

The student released the spray at the end of the school day on April 1. The high school was evacuated after students and teachers left the building with respiratory distress. At the time of the incident, officials had not identified the substance causing harm. Medical personnel treated 14 people on scene, and one person was hospitalized. Officials later identified the substance as pepper spray, and Park City School District leaders said it was a type of bear spray.

The teen admitted during the hearing that he released the spray in the lecture hall “with the intention to disrupt a meeting.”

“I didn’t feel as though it was a very safe thing for a lot of our students to really have in our school, so I decided I wanted to disrupt it,” he said during the hearing.

The event was relocated to Ecker Hill Middle School, and members of the Turning Point club have since said it’s disconcerting that a peer targeted the club based on political beliefs.

Knight told the teen he was shutting down speech because he did not agree with it. She advised him to find less disruptive and harmful means if he wants to protest something in the future.

She sentenced him to 100 hours of community service and ordered him to write an essay on civility; write a letter of apology to Trent Jarman, the school’s resource officer who entered the school in an attempt to identify the substance; pay restitution to the school to cover clean-up costs and pay the co-pay of the individual who was hospitalized because of the spray. She also said victim mediation is available for any victim who would like to participate.

In a statement that the student read during the hearing, he said he was sorry for the effects of his actions.

Melinda Colton, spokesperson for the Park City School District, declined to comment on the matter.


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