Democrat congressional candidate pepper sprays himself in the eyes to promote school safety

'Wow, that's intense', the candidate says after washing his eyes out with soapy water and a garden hose

Clark Mindock
New York
Tuesday 12 June 2018 17:08 BST
Democrat congressional candidate pepper sprays himself in the eyes to promote school safety

A Democratic congressional candidate has released a campaign advert showing him being pepper sprayed in the eyes in an attempt to promote a policy he says will reduce gun violence in schools.

Levi Tillemann, a Democratic candidate in a Colorado congressional primary, says in the video that a simple can of pepper spray can help a teacher neutralise a shooter who chooses to terrorise school hallways.

“Empower schools and teachers with non-lethal self defence tools, like this can of pepper spray,” Mr Tillemann said in the video. “Pepper spray doesn’t cost much and it can be safely stored in a break glass in case of emergency cabinet. But it’s powerful and won’t accidentally kill a kid.”

“Trust me, this will stop anybody in their tracks,” Mr Tillemann continued before closing his eyes and appearing to be sprayed in the face with the pepper spray.

Mr Tillemann — a former Department of Energy official during the presidency of Barack Obama, and managing partner at the technology consulting firm Valence Strategic — appears to be pushing back on policy prescriptions presented by President Donald Trump, who has said in the wake of several high profile mass shootings in schools that teachers should be armed with guns to fight back against active shooters.

“It’s incredibly painful, now I can’t see anything,” Mr Tillemann, who repeatedly tries to rinse his eyes out in blue, soapy bins he had nearby and with a garden hose, said. “Wow, that’s intense.”

Mr Tillemann told The Independent that his campaign had arrived at the idea of promoting pepper spray as a way to make schools safer after brainstorming through at least one other, less talked about ideas. He said that his campaign consulted school officials, law enforcement, and other experts to determine that pepper spray is a cheap — he says in the video that the costs can be as low as $1 per teacher — and proven — he mentioned at least one incident in Seattle where a shooter was disarmed by pepper spray almost immediately after brandishing the weapon — idea to consider.

He supports a range of progress gun control and safety measures, including those that are supported by mainstream Democrats like an assault-style weapon ban, or keeping people on the no-fly list from buying a gun. He also supports further measures including a 10-day waiting period to buy a firearm, legislation to require safe storage of weapons to reduce gun suicides, and others.

The main point, he said, is that the status quo is not working.

"What we’re doing now and what we’ve been doing for decades isn’t working. And, what this is is an effort to solve a problem and to an idea out there that can work and to start a conversation about using non lethal self defense methods that will save lives," Mr Tillemann said.

The candidate is running in one of the busiest and most competitive districts in the state, and was previously in national news after he tape recorded a conversation he had with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who urged him to drop out of the race, which has a crowded primary and whose winner will go on to try and beat an incumbent Republican to represent the district.

The leading candidate in the congressional race is considered to be Jason Crow, a lawyer and Army veteran seeking the Democratic nomination.

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