WASHINGTON - Metro Transit Police used pepper spray to stop a suspect inside the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station Monday morning.
Police said they were forced to use the chemical after the suspect became combative, but several passengers said they were caught in the line of fire.
It all happened just before 8:30 a.m. near the turnstiles at the H Street entrance. Metro said the suspect tried to enter the station without paying. After failing to follow officers’ instructions, police said he became combative and used pepper spray to subdue him.
Four Metro Transit Police officers are seen on cellphone video restraining the man lying on the ground.
However, some riders told FOX 5 the pepper spray was deployed more than once and filled the station like a thick fog, causing many passengers to struggle for air.
One man emailed FOX 5 saying in part, "The gas, of course, went everywhere causing several passengers using both the green/yellow and red lines to begin coughing and sneezing as a result of the contaminated air." He also wrote that people on the platform were coughing, sneezing and suffered watery eyes.
At one point during the cellphone video, it shows the police officers rubbing their eyes from the exposure.
Meanwhile, some Metro riders think the situation could have been handled differently to keep everyone safer.
“I think there is definitely a better way to handle that,” said Metro rider Lynette Alejandro. “Definitely not pepper spray since there is no circulation down there if you think about it. It’s underground.”
“I’m sympathetic because they are up against unbelievable odds in the era of terrorism, but there shouldn't be, with what you just described, jumping a turnstile – that doesn't warrant pepper spray,” said John Leisenring.
Metro said they did not receive any reports from customers about being exposed to the pepper spray. They also said the suspect was not hurt. It is not clear if he is facing any charges.