Police Protesters Draughn
Part of the melee that led to the charges against Denzel Draughn. The photo depicts the moment the can of pepper spray fell away. Photo credit: Screen shot, CBS8.com

A jury acquitted a man Thursday of charges related to a downtown protest in which multiple San Diego police officers were pepper sprayed.

Following a weeklong trial in San Diego Superior Court, jurors found Denzel Draughn, 29, not guilty of charges that included using tear gas on a peace officer and resisting arrest.

The charges stemmed from an Aug. 28, 2020 nighttime protest that turned heated, when prosecutors alleged he sprayed 11 officers near the intersection of Ninth Avenue and E Street.

Authorities arrested Draughn later that night.

Draughn’s supporters, including his family and local activists, decried his arrest, saying he was protesting the unjust actions of police.

Prosecutors alleged that on the night of the demonstration, police stopped a motorist who was running red lights, then were confronted by the group of protesters.

During the ensuing melee, a pepper spray can fell out of an officer’s holster and tumbled along the street. Draughn retrieved it, then sprayed the group of officers on two separate occasions.

Defense attorney Damian Lowe told jurors in his opening statement that Draughn sprayed the officers because he saw a group of them tackling a man to the ground, then punching and kicking him.

Prior to that, the man who had been tackled attempted to slap an officer’s pepper spray can out of a lawman’s hand, but the officer sprayed him, prompting that man to make a vulgar gesture to the officer.

The officer then jumped into a crowd of protesters to pursue the man, Lowe told the jury.

The defense attorney said his client was walking by the protest when he saw the scrum. Draughn’s his initial impression was that police were assaulting members of the demonstration.

“From his point of view, these officers are attacking these protesters,” Lowe told jurors.

– City News Service