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Man acquitted of charges related to pepper spraying police at Downtown protest

Protesters clash with police in downtown San Diego, Aug. 25, 2020.
Activated Podcast
Protesters clash with police in downtown San Diego, Calif. Aug. 25, 2020.

A man was acquitted Thursday of charges related to a downtown protest in which multiple San Diego police officers were pepper sprayed.

Following a weeklong trial, Denzel Draughn, 29, was found not guilty by a San Diego jury of charges that included using tear gas on a peace officer and resisting arrest.

RELATED: San Diego Activist Still In Jail, Under $750,000 Bail, A Week After Protest


The charges stemmed from an Aug. 28, 2020, nighttime protest that turned heated, when prosecutors alleged he sprayed 11 officers near the intersection of Ninth Avenue and E Street. Draughn was arrested later that night.

Draughn's supporters, including his family and local activists, decried his arrest, saying he was protesting the unjust actions of police.

Prosecutors alleged that on the night of the demonstration, police stopped a motorist who was running red lights, then were confronted by the group of protesters.

During the ensuing melee between police and the crowd, a pepper spray can fell out of an officer's holster and tumbled along the street. Draughn retrieved it, then sprayed the group of officers on two separate occasions.

Defense attorney Damian Lowe told jurors in his opening statement that Draughn only sprayed the officers because he saw a group of officers tackling a man to the ground, then punching and kicking him.


Prior to that, that man had attempted to slap an officer's pepper spray can out of a lawman's hand. The officer then sprayed him, prompting that man to show his middle fingers to the officer, who then jumped into a crowd of protesters to pursue the man, Lowe told the jury.

The defense attorney said his client was walking by the protest when he saw the scrum, with his initial impression being that police were assaulting members of the demonstration.

"From his point of view, these officers are attacking these protesters," Lowe told jurors.