Friday, June 15, 2001

Ft. Thomas police get non-lethal weapons

Pepperballs leave welts, tears for Ft. Thomas

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT THOMAS — Police demonstrated the newest arrival in the Tristate's non-lethal force arsenal: the pepperball gun.

        The Cincinnati Police Division has ordered 17 non-lethal pepperball guns that will be used in conjunction with, but not replacing, the beanbag shotgun rounds that were used during the April riots in the city.

[photo] Police Lt. Mark Dill fires a practice round from one of the Fort Thomas Police Department's two pepperball guns.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        While Cincinnati awaits delivery, Fort Thomas police are ready to put their two semi-automatic pepperball guns into service following a demonstration Thursday.

        The guns are basically the same compressed air devices used by paintball players for years. Fort Thomas's two guns are semi-automatic; Cincinnati has ordered the weapons in both automatic and semi-automatic versions.

        The major difference between a paintball gun and a pepperball gun is the projectile, a small plastic ball filled with oleoresin capsicum (OC), known in liquid form as pepper spray.

        “We looked at the various types of less-than-lethal compliance options, including the beanbag (shotgun) round, the cork (shotgun) round and others,” Fort Thomas Lt. Mark Dill said Thursday.

[photo] A pepperball round explodes as it hits Fort Thomas Police Officer John Redmond as pepper from a round fired a split-second earlier disperses during a demonstration Thursday
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        “But we kept coming back to the issue of how people react when a shotgun is pointed at them. If they are going to do something like fire on us, that's the time they're likely to decide to do it.”

        Cincinnati Police Sgt. Doug Ventre, a police tactical expert, said the pepperball gun is another tool for officers, but not a replacement for the beanbag shotgun round.

        “There are times when the pepperball will work very well, but it has limitations such as range and susceptibility to wind,” he said. “A beanbag round fired from a shotgun has at least twice the range of the pepperball rounds, up to about 80 yards.”

        Cincinnati has placed an order for 15 of the semi-automatic guns identical to the two in use in Fort Thomas, at a cost of about $350 each, as well as two full-automatic pepperball guns that cost over $700. The weapons come from the Jacor Tactical Systems company in St. Louis.

        Lt. Dill, assisted by Officer John Redmond, gave local media a first-hand look at the pepperball gun Thursday when Lt. Dill hit Officer Redmond three times in the chest with pepperballs from about 20 feet away. The officer began to choke and his eyes watered.

        “It's not comfortable,” Officer Redmond said.


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