Several dozen students were treated for respiratory and eye irritation after a police officer used pepper spray to get through a crowd to a fight at a Harbor City high school, according fire and school district officials.
A fire department spokesman and a Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman both stated the treatment took place after a school police officer used pepper spray at about 10 a.m. Thursday at Narbonne High School.
In a statement issued at 3 p.m., LAUSD said a fight between two female students broke out during morning nutrition break:
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"The fight attracted a large crowd that surrounded the incident, preventing the Los Angeles School Police Officer from coming to the aid of the fallen student. The crowd did not heed commands to disperse by school staff or the officer. Concerned for the safety of the fallen student and for the officer’s own safety, the officer dispensed a short burst of pepper spray into the air to disperse the crowd."
The district said the two students involved had been cited, and that Los Angeles School Police are investigating this as a "use-of-force incident, in accordance with official department policy."
Witnesses said the officer did not give the crowd notice that she was going to use pepper spray.
"The lady just said, 'Disperse.' She didn't give nobody no time to leave, she just started spraying. She was going crazy with the spray," student Jazz Webster said. "People that was walking past that wasn't even involved got sprayed."
Mother Carlisha Jamerson said the fight started when her daughter Ranniyah Ciearria Gill was attacked by girls who had been "bullying" the girl for weeks.
"One girl started swinging and two others came in," Gill said.
Los Angeles Fire Department's Brian Humphrey said 47 patients were examined on campus "for minor respiratory + eye irritation following pepper spray exposure."
The school district said in its statement that 30 to 40 students were examined.
Several parents at the school, where classes ended early because of a regularly scheduled work period for teachers, were unhappy with the incident.
"I am outraged. That officer should have called for backup help before she started spraying any of these kids with any type of pepper spray at all," said mother Vivian Araiza, who was taking her son to the doctor.
Some patients at the scene briefly accepted oxygen, and one 16-year-old male student was taken to the hospital in good condition with "lingering respiratory irritation," LAFD's Humphrey said.
Aerial video showed two patients being wheeled to waiting ambulances. Several fire trucks sat outside the Harbor Area school, which had about 3,300 students last year.
The incident was reported at 10:18 a.m. at the school at 24230 Western Ave. (map).