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Kansas City Police Officer Charged With Minor Assault During Protests Last Summer

Via Twitter-Elise Villarreal
Kansas City Police Officer Nicholas McQuillen sprays a juvenile in the face during the May 30, 2020, Black Lives Matter protest near the Country Club Plaza.

The Kansas City Police officer seen pepper spraying a teenager in a viral Twitter video at last summer's Black Lives Matter Protests has been charged with misdemeanor assault.

A Kansas City police officer has been charged with misdemeanor assault for spraying a juvenile in the face with pepper spray during a Black Lives Matter protest last May.

The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office announced Friday that a grand jury had indicted Nicholas M. McQuillen for one count of fourth-degree assault for his role in the May 30, 2020 incident.

This is the fifth Kansas City Police officer to be criminally charged in a case involving a Black victim in the past 10 months, according to The Kansas City Star.

McQuillen “recklessly caused physical injury to the juvenile when he sprayed chemicals into her face during the protest," the charging document says.

The teen, referred to as N.M. in the indictment, had arrived at the Country Club Plaza with her father, siblings and others to attend an organized protest near Mill Creek Park.

KCUR reported that thousands had gathered near the Plaza last summer to decry racism and police violence after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

According to court records, officers approached an unidentified man near N.M. three times, telling him to stay on the sidewalk or he would be arrested. The man said he did not hear the officers.

Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
Protestors line Mill Creek Parkway near the Plaza where Kansas City Police Officer Nicholas McQuillen sprayed a teenaged girl when her father was being arrested on May 30, 2020. McQuillen was indicted by a grand jury and faces a misdemeanor charge of 4th degree assault.

McQuillen and another officer then moved toward the man and N.M., but did not make any verbal statement to them that they were under arrest, according to the video cited in the court documents. They also did not give N.M. any directions to move or clear the area.

There was no evidence that a supervisor or any other officers directed McQuillen to arrest the protester, and there was “no evidence of information about the need to immediately arrest," according to the charging documents.

Court documents said the video showed McQuillen attempting to pull the man forward out of the crowd, the movement forcing N.M. between the two men and making contact with the officer’s vest.

It was then that McQuillen was seen raising a MK-9 fogger spray to N.M.'s face and spraying it in close proximity. She experienced blurred vision, pain, and a burning sensation in her eyes and arms, according to her testimony.

According to court documents, police guidelines note that fogger spray should used not be used on individuals, but rather on crowds. It also stated that officers should avoid spraying directly in an individual's eyes or face.

McQuillen declined to provide a statement to investigators, but will be issued a summons to appear in court at a future date, according to the prosecutor's office.

A statement from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge said it will be fully supporting McQuillen and "believe this charge holds no merit."

"The FOP is very disappointed that the prosecuting attorney would bring such a charge when Officer McQuillen employed the lowest level of force available to him," the union statement said.

"The use of OC spray is an extraordinarily valuable tool that often results in the de-escalation of a given situation. And, the individual here had no injuries or lasting effects from the use of the OC spray."

The Kansas City Police Department also issued a statement that it was cooperating with the investigation and supported the judicial process.

“The Kansas City Missouri Police Department provided all pertinent information to federal prosecutors, the FBI and the county prosecutor, per the Memorandum of Understanding regarding potential police civil rights violations,” the statement said.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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