A counterprotester was arrested Wednesday night outside of the West Valley City police headquarters after he reportedly pepper sprayed Black Lives Matter protesters and threatened them with a gun.
People gathered at about 6 p.m. to protest the death of Damien Evans, 38, a parolee from West Valley City who was shot and killed in Salt Lake City on Aug. 27 by one or more members of a group of U.S. Marshals and West Valley City officers. By 6:30 p.m., there were about 30 Black Lives Matter protesters and about 20 counterprotesters, including members of Utah Citizens' Alarm and Civilized Awakening, according to West Valley City police spokeswoman Roxanne Vainuku. Both groups often attend demonstrations against law enforcement to show support for police.
At about 7:10 p.m., a confrontation broke out between the pro- and anti-police groups, she said. “There was some pushing, and then one person was seen spraying people with some sort of aerosol, which has been reported to be pepper spray.”
Video of the confrontation posted on social media appears to show the man spraying something at protesters, at least one of whom was taken to a hospital. He can also be seeing holding what looks like a black pistol.
Officers moved in to break up the confrontation, and the counterprotester was arrested. He was not booked into jail.
He was cited with four counts of assault and a count of disorderly conduct, according to a news release, and released from custody.
“He could still face further charges,” Vainuku said. “Investigators are in the process gathering evidence and reviewing video from the confrontation.”
The news release also notes that police are investigating “multiple participants” in the confrontation.
The release said that “each side of this dispute has a different account of this incident, as well as witnesses and evidence they interpret as supporting their claims."
It said the investigation process “will take as long as is necessary” and that it “will not be rushed to fit anyone’s timeline.”
This isn’t the first time someone has used pepper spray at a Black Lives Matter protest.
On Aug. 7, someone sprayed a citizen journalist after a demonstration in Cottonwood Heights. The alleged assailant is a member of Utah Citizens' Alarm, a group of self-described peace-keepers who frequently show up armed to Black Lives Matter or anti-police violence protests.
Cottonwood Heights police spokesman Dan Bartlett said Thursday that police have finished their investigation and turned over evidence to the city prosecutor, who will determine whether or not to file charges.