Pepper-spray incidents in Spicer under investigation

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WILLMAR — A suspect has been identified and charges may be pending in one of two pepper-spray incidents that took place in Spicer over the Fourth of July weekend.

But there are no suspects yet in the second pepper-spray assault, which is unrelated and appears to have been bias-motivated, Kandiyohi County Sheriff Eric Holien said Thursday. Both incidents happened July 4 in the area of Saulsbury Beach on the south side of Green Lake in Spicer.

A sheriff's deputy responded on the afternoon of the Fourth to a report of someone being sprayed with pepper spray or mace, reportedly after some kind of altercation, Holien said. The victim was a staff member of an agency that provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities and was at the park with some clients, according to Holien.

While the deputy was there, someone else came forward to report a similar incident that happened in the morning. The victim, a young Somali woman, was confronted by someone who began asking her about her religious faith and about the hijab she was wearing, Holien said. "A lot of it was centered around her religion."

The woman was then sprayed in the face by a male suspect who ran to a vehicle nearby and drove off, the sheriff said.


He said the substance used in both incidents was "consistent with pepper spray that we use in law enforcement."

The spray causes stinging, burning, redness of the skin and swelling but as of the last report, neither victim appears to have suffered permanent injury, he said. "Everybody is of this date fine."

The investigation by the Sheriff's Office indicates there were "definitely two different suspects" in the two incidents, Holien said.

A suspect has been identified in the incident that happened during the afternoon and deputies have wrapped up their portion of the case, he said. "We have completed that and sent it forward to the county attorney's office."

The earlier incident targeting the young woman remains under investigation. Anyone who might have been a witness or might know something is urged to contact the Sheriff's Office. "We would ask that they step forward," Holien said.

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