A mall cop reportedly pepper-sprayed a black man while apparently ignoring a man who yelled racial slurs at a crowd protesting in Seattle on Saturday.
Raymond Wilford was walking by the Starbucks at Westlake Center near a pro-Palestine rally when he passed a man who had been "heckling demonstrators, flipping a middle finger at them, and also had removed his shirt," the Seattle Times reported. When Wilford passed the unnamed individual, he said he felt spray come from the man's mouth and turned toward him.
Wilford and the man "squared off" with their fists raised when the mall cop contracted by Valor Security Services appeared. The mall cop spray Wilford with mace; the heckler did not appear to get hit.
The guard said Wilford “took an aggressive step towards him," according to the Seattle Times. However, Wilford said he only approached the guard to give his side of the story over the volume of the crowd. Wilford was handcuffed and detained before being released 25 minutes later.
"I think he’s real bad at analyzing the situation," Wilford told The Stranger about the officer's response to the incident. "He said he got a call for a white guy for his shirt off. He should have paid attention to that person. I don’t want to say it’s a race thing or anything. But his attention was straight on me. He never looked at him. After he sprayed me, he lied to me and said he sprayed both of us."
Photographer Alex Garland, who was documenting the rally, captured a photograph of the macing.
Westlake security pepper spray & arrest innocent bystander after he's harassed by pro Israel supporter during protest pic.twitter.com/SCf6KRpQ5V
— Alex Garland (@AGarlandPhoto) August 9, 2014
"The guy that was the aggressor was closer to the security guard. The other individual, the person of color, was further away but he was the one who got pepper sprayed," Garland told MyNorthwest.com. Adding: "The guy saw who the aggressor was and made a decision that wasn't based on that. I can't say why he made that decision, but it was definitely the wrong one."
Witnesses at the scene told Seattle's Stranger the shirtless man had been harassing the pro-Palestine protestors, using slurs like "towelhead." A police report states someone complained a man "with no shirt on was causing a disturbance and 'picking a fight' with the protesters."
“I didn’t even know what the protest was about,” he told KING 5. "He just sprayed me straight across my face. He never even looked at the other guy at all. I can take a lot of pain, but I have never felt anything like that in my life.”
The guard eventually apologized, the outlet notes. Police are investigating.