KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 38-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, police officer has been charged with fourth-degree assault for spraying a minor in the face with pepper spray during protests last May at the Country Club Plaza.
A Jackson County grand jury returned the indictment of Nicholas M. McQuillen, who is assigned to the KCPD Patrol Bureau and has been with the department since 2014, for one count of misdemeanor assault in connection with the May 30, 2020, incident.
The juvenile — Ny’Tya Maddox, who publicly shared her story in June — was among protesters at the Plaza that day, who were voicing anger at frustration over police misconduct in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
According to court documents, law enforcement officers who were working at the protest had been instructed that if a subject who violated the law moved back into the crowd, department procedure would be for officers to “wait for another time to attempt to arrest that person” in an effort to keep officers safe.
Officers also had been trained not to use MK-9 fogger spray on individuals, especially not directing it at anyone’s eyes or face. That type of pepper spray used is meant for crowd control.
Supervisors and other officers at the scene with McQuillen confirmed that these KCPD policies were communicated ahead of the protest.
Based on available video of the incident, a protester — Tarence Maddox, who has filed suit against the police department — stepped into the street and was yelling at officers, but there is no indication any officers told him he was under arrest or McQuillen was ordered to go into the crowd and arrest the person.
Ny’Tya, who is Tarence Maddox’s daughter, did not, based on a review of video evidence, attempt to stop McQuillen after he entered the crowd — against procedure — to make an arrest before she was sprayed in the face with the chemical agent.
"The charged conduct is absolutely indefensible,” Tom Porto, the Maddox family’s attorney, said in a statement to 41 Action News. “A 15-year-old girl had the equivalent of bear spray sprayed in her face from centimeters away. The grand jury got it right."
Video of the incident went viral on Twitter.
McQuillen declined to provide a statement to investigators, according to a finding of facts report submitted Friday by the grand jury.
The Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office announced the charge against McQuillen on Friday evening, alleging he “recklessly caused physical injury to the juvenile when he sprayed chemicals into her face.”
McQuillen will be issued a summons to appear in court at a later date. No mugshot is available, because the officer has not been arrested.
KCPD issued a statement, indicating that it cooperated with the investigation and respects 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. We respect and support the judicial process. As such, any further questions regarding this case should be directed to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 99, the union that represents KCPD officers, also issued a statement after the charge against McQuillen was announced and denounced the prosecuting attorney's decision.
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 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.
We believe this charge has no merit and the FOP will fully support Officer McQuillen as he challenges it in Court.
Police conduct, especially toward Black people, has been at the center of the national discourse since Floyd’s death, for which jury selection is underway in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Prosecutors allege that DeValkenaere, 41, violated the Fourth Amendment by entering the property where Lamb was shot, making it an extra-judicial killing.
Lamb’s family pushed for charges in the case.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced earlier this month that the officer who shot and killed Sanders wouldn’t face charges, which touched off more protests, including one outside her house.
For jurisdictions that utilize the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline, anonymous tips can be made by calling 816-474-TIPS (8477), submitting the tip online or through the free mobile app at P3Tips.com.