A preliminary review indicates the use of tear gas by police to disperse a large, increasingly unruly crowd in Old Town last week was appropriate given the circumstances, Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams said Wednesday.
A small number of officers were attempting to get a crowd of several hundred people leaving nightclubs at closing time to move along to their vehicles at about 2 a.m. Nov. 23. But people were resisting and several fights were breaking out, Williams said.
A single canister of tear gas, about the size of a desk stapler, was activated.
“It proved to be effective,” Williams said, because the crowd immediately dispersed and all clashes ended.
The canister was released only a few feet from Doc Howard’s doors, and a cloud of tear gas formed beneath the club’s canopy and even entered the club through both the entrance and exit doors, Thompson said.
One camera shows an officer kicking the tear gas canister south a few feet to get it away from the club’s entrance.
One club employee suffered a broken hand as people rushed inside to get away from the tear gas and another was kneed in the head by a fleeing patron, he said.
Faced with a crowd that was starting to get out of control, with fights being reported, they tossed one small tear gas canister. I can assure you, I'd rather get a whiff of tear gas, then get maced in the face which was the alternative. Should they have tried to taser 1000 people? what would a better solution have been?
Nolte says officers have had issues in the past with crowds not dispersing when asked to, and there were indications that this crowd was starting to get rowdy.
Officers decided to use the small canister of tear gas, which got the people in the crowd to move along.
"The officers were there, the supervisor on the scene felt there were not enough officers at the time to adequately dispel the disturbances, to deal with those," said Captain Max Tenbrook of Patrol South.
One person complained of tear gas irritation and was checked out on the scene by emergency crews. That person did not require a trip to the hospital.
Nolte said officers usually use mace to get a crowd to disperse because it is more effective. He says tear gas usually isn't as effective when used outside, especially when it's windy.