- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Fort Worth Police Department has launched an internal investigation after a six-year veteran of the force was caught on camera discharging pepper spray at dozens of motorcyclists as they rode past his cruiser on a Texas highway Sunday afternoon.

Chase Stone, the president of the East Texas Heat motorcycle team, told the Star-Telegram that the incident occurred as around 200 motorcyclists were participating in a “Welcome Back Weather” ride on Sunday that at one point ended up on U.S. Route 287, also known as Martin Luther King Freeway.

Officer W. Figueroa, whose first name has not released by authorities, had just pulled over the driver of a pickup truck when a passing motorcyclist captured video footage of the cop emerging from his police car and unloading pepper spray at the riders.

“It’s like he [the officer] wasn’t focused on the truck. He was focused on the group [of riders],” the man who shot the video, Jack Kinney, told the Star-Telegram. “Then I saw some white or yellow cloud. Through the mirror it was smaller. I couldn’t really tell what was going on.”

“I looked over and I see the people in the back of the truck ducking, covering their eyes. They were covering their mouths and seemed to be in distress,” Mr. Stone recalled. “I was like, something is going on.”

The motorcyclists didn’t realize the incident had been captured on camera until several hours later. In the interim, paramedics had already treated five people at the scene for pepper-spray exposure, including an expectant mother who had been behind the wheel of the pickup. A sixth person who suffers from asthma required hospitalization, a local NBC station reported.

“He sprays them first and then sprays everybody in the truck and it came into the truck because I was the driver and I’m six months pregnant and I just started … everybody started choking,” driver Brittany Botelli told Fox4News.

“He said he was scared,” passenger Terry McKenzie recalled when he was asked why the officer had used his pepper spray.

Police spokeswoman Cpl. Tracey Knight told the NBC News station that the officer documented his use of pepper spray in his official report, and that the incident was captured by both the dashboard camera on his cruiser and a body camera.

“The Fort Worth Police Department takes any complaint of officer misconduct very seriously, and this incident will be investigated thoroughly,” police said in a statement.

Officer Figueroa was reassigned to an administrative desk job on Monday while authorities investigate the incident. The driver of the truck, meanwhile, was issued citations for not having a license, and two passengers were cited for riding in the bed of the truck. 

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