A police training exercise descended into chaos on Friday morning when Columbus, OH police wrecked three cruisers into each other and accidentally deployed tear gas on a nearby elementary school, sending six students home with eye and throat irritation and a pregnant teacher to the hospital for observation.
By Barry Donegan @ Ben Swann
On Friday morning, police in Columbus, OH set out to conduct a riot training exercise at now-abandoned Cooper Stadium. As a part of the exercise, new recruits were driving their vehicles in a convoy to the stadium when, according to The Columbus Dispatch, a sergeant wrecked his cruiser into the back of a cadet, causing a three-car pile up. “Sometimes in a convoy, there’s like an accordion effect,” Columbus Division of Police Deputy Chief Tim Becker said, explaining how the accident occurred. No serious injuries were reported in the wreck, though an officer was briefly hospitalized after complaining of back pain.
The accident caused the cadets to arrive late for the exercise at Cooper Stadium. Officers claim that smoke grenades were then used to test where the wind might carry tear gas that would be used during the training. Due to changes in wind conditions, the exercise was moved to a different part of the stadium than what was originally planned. Police say that the manufacturer of the tear gas canisters, Chemical Tactical Systems, indicated that the devices have an effective range of only 40 feet.
During the exercise, police fired 15 canisters of tear gas. The noxious fumes were then wind-swept to nearby Sullivant Elementary School, inflicting six students with irritation of the eyes and throat and sending a pregnant teacher who suffers from asthma to the hospital for observation. Police found out about the tear gas accident after school administrators called firefighters for help. Deputy Chief Tim Becker told The Columbus Dispatch, “The school is about 3,000 feet from where [the tear gas]was deployed.” Fourteen students were taken home from school by their parents, one of whom told NBC-4 Columbus that her children were crying when she arrived. No one was seriously hurt during the accidental gassing.
Deputy Chief Becker apologized for the incident, telling NBC-4 Columbus, “First of all we are sorry, this never should have happened… It is very strange for [the tear gas]to travel this far. We certainly would not conduct training if we thought it was going to have this type of impact.” He indicated that the Columbus Division of Police will be suspending future training exercises at Cooper Stadium pending an investigation into what went wrong during the deployment of the tear gas.
With regard to the crash on the way to the stadium, Columbus Division of Police spokesperson Sergeant Rich Weiner told The Columbus Dispatch that police are investigating who was at fault for the wreck and whether traffic citations or other disciplinary actions are warranted.