SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — An Ohio man accused of pepper-spraying 11 San Diego Police officers during a demonstration last month has pleaded not guilty.
Denzel Draughn, 28, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to felony counts of unlawful use of tear gas against a peace officer and 11 felony counts of use of force against a peace officer.
On Aug. 28, a group of demonstrators protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc., marched through downtown San Diego.
See Sky10 video of the demonstration below:
Police say that as the group neared 9th and E Streets, a vehicle that was following the group failed to stop at red lights. After police stopped the driver, a crowd began to form near the car and officers who pulled the vehicle over.
SDPD says that the group ignored demands to back up from the scene, prompting one officer to pull out pepper spray. Police say one person tried to knock the pepper spray out of the officer's hand, forcing the officer to discharge the spray.
Several police officers then tried to arrest the person. As the officers were placing the person in custody, a pepper spray canister fell on the ground. Officers say Draughn picked up the canister and sprayed it twice, hitting 11 officers.
SDPD says Draughn fled but was later found and arrested.
If convicted, Draughn faces probation to 11 years in jail. He was released on $150,000 bail Wednesday evening.
"Peaceful protest is a time-honored tradition in our country, and now more than ever it’s critical that we protect an individual’s important First Amendment right. The majority of those protesting in our County are doing so peacefully. But when protests turn violent, it is an insult to the rightful expressions of peaceful protesters, and we must act to protect the community," District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement. "Protesting is an inalienable right recognized by the U.S. Constitution. Rioting, burning down businesses and assaulting peace officers are crimes that will be prosecuted."