‘Atmospheric fluke’: Tear gas used in deputy training traveled 1.7 miles to residents’ homes

Orange County residents said their eyes were itchy, their noses runny, and they had a hard time breathing after tear gas escaped from a nearby Orange County Sheriff’s Office training facility.

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Residents said the incident didn’t last long, but it sparked concerns for many.

According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, CS gas, a common kind of tear gas, was used during a Jan. 22 training at their facility on Wewahoottee Road.

A spokesperson with the sheriff’s office said a “fluke in atmospheric conditions” somehow led the tear gas to travel 1.7 miles to the Oaks at Moss Park.

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Residents there said they were confused and alarmed when they smelled the gas outside their homes.

“I smelled it first, then my eyes realized it, and you could feel it in your nose, in your sinuses, in the back of your throat,” said resident Al Scott. “You couldn’t walk outside and take a step without saying, ‘oh my God, what is that.’”

Scott said he was feeding his dog when he noticed something was off in the air.

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As a veteran of the Iraq war, Scott said he understands how essential training is for law enforcement, but he pointed to the need for better communication.

“I understand you have to train, but how about letting us know,” said Scott, “With me being a vet, I’ve smelt similar smells before overseas in Iraq. It put me in a bad headspace because I didn’t know what it was.”

Emails to elected officials show multiple people were impacted, and the community HOA was alarmed by the incident. It leads the HOA president to ask elected officials for more safeguards to prevent this from happening again.

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In a statement to Channel 9, an Orange County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said immediately after the incident, patrol deputies and the Emergency Response Team visited the community speaking directly to affected residents.

The sheriff’s office added that a team monitors atmospheric conditions ahead of training with CS gas. According to the sheriff’s office, on Jan 22., wind speeds were between 2 to 3 mph at the time of the training. The spokesperson said there was no way to anticipate the gas traveling that far.

Moving forward, the sheriff’s office said they will use another venue for similar training to avoid future issues.

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