Monday, November 19, 2007

Church Group Says Orlando Police Used Excessive Force

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Members of a church group said they will file a formal complaint Monday morning against an Orlando police officer. Jump Ministries members said they were pepper-sprayed without warning or reason over the weekend when officers tried to clear away crowds.It was early Sunday morning, around 2:30am when people were leaving the downtown bars and clubs. It was very crowded and police were trying to control the situation when several people, including members of a church group said they were hit by pepper spray.

The pungent pepper spray sent several people to the ground. One man said the chemical affected him so severely he even had to go to the hospital.

"My throat started to burn and then my eyes started to burn and my face felt like it was on fire," said Odies Garcia, a church member.

Members of Jump Ministries were in the midst of shooting a religious video when they said police came up from behind them and sprayed the group. The Bishop said he plans to file a formal complaint with the Orlando Police Department.

"I believe last night absolutely was racially motivated and was an indictment of the church," Dr. Durone Hepburn said, the church Bishop.

The church said home video shows the officers releasing the spray, but Eyewitness News enhanced the video and it appears it is merely a man blowing cigarette smoke.

Orlando's police chief said the department will investigate.

"It's not to be used like bug spray. It's to help a situation from getting violent," Chief Michael McCoy said.

Chief McCoy said that each time pepper spray is released there has to be a very good reason and that reason must be documented.

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