As detectives continue to investigate the Black Friday pepper spray attack at a Los Angeles-area Walmart, one legal expert said it could be a challenge to bring criminal charges against the woman who used the spray to fend off other customers in a shopping melee.
The key question is whether the woman used the spray intentionally to cause harm or believed she was using it to defend herself, defense attorney Dmirty Gorin told the Los Angeles Times
"Witness interviews regarding the circumstances surrounding the use of the pepper spray hold the key to whether this woman's actions were criminal or legally justified," Gorin told the Times. "In a riot-type atmosphere at midnight on Black Friday, there may have been a literal frenzy among the shoppers. The woman in question had the right to use pepper spray if she reasonably intended to prevent serious injuries to herself or other shoppers."
The unidentified woman turned herself in at a Los Angeles Police Department station Saturday but declined to answer questions about the incident. She was not taken into custody, and the investigation is continuing.
Authorities have called the woman a "competitive shopper" who purposely used pepper spray to get merchandise she wanted.
Detectives plan to interview as many victims and witnesses to the attack as they can before deciding whether to seek criminal charges against the woman.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene to the Times.
Alejandra Seminario, 24, said she was waiting in line to grab some toys at the store around 9:55 p.m. when people in the next aisle started shouting and ripping at the plastic wrap encasing gaming consoles. The store was supposed to open at 10.
"People started screaming, pulling and pushing each other, and then the whole area filled up with pepper spray," Seminario told the Times. "I guess what triggered it was people started pulling the plastic off the pallets and then shoving and bombarding the display of games. It started with people pushing and screaming because they were getting shoved onto the boxes."
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