JANESVILLE, Wis. – Investigators said Thursday that they’re recommending a disorderly conduct charge be filed against a 15-year-old girl who was pepper-sprayed after she punched a man at a rally for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump in Wisconsin.
Video of the altercation shows a crowd of people in a parking lot outside the rally in Janesville on Tuesday. The girl can be seen holding an anti-Trump sign and arguing with a 59-year-old man.
The video shows the man turning away with his hands in the air. Seconds later, the girl punches him in the face. Another man wearing a red Trump hat then pepper-sprayed the girl and disappeared into the crowd.
The girl told police the first man groped her breast. But Chief David Moore told reporters during a news conference Thursday that additional video doesn’t show any evidence the man groped her and that 12 out of 13 witnesses said they didn’t see him do anything.
Moore said the man who was punched didn’t want to press assault charges against the girl, but investigators have recommended juvenile authorities charge her with disorderly conduct for what he called “an act of violence.” He said time passed between the alleged groping and the punching and the man and the girl were several feet apart when she threw the punch.
“Clearly her punch was illegal,” he said.
The chief said investigators won’t pursue charges of filing a false police report against the girl. He said she genuinely believes she felt pressure on her breast. However, he said, quarters were tight and people were brushing up against one another throughout the crowd.
Neither authorities nor The Associated Press are naming the girl because she is a juvenile. However, the AP has tried unsuccessfully to find her or her family so they could comment on the incident.
The man who pepper-sprayed her remains at large. Police Lt. Keith Lawver said investigators have yet to identify him. Moore also described using the pepper spray as an act of violence, and Lawver said he could face misdemeanor battery charges.
Moore said 350 officers were on duty at the rally but none of them saw the altercation. The video shows about a half-dozen officers near the dispute, but it appears their view would have been blocked by rows of people.
Asked whether police should have kept pro- and anti-Trump supporters separated rather than allowing them to mingle, Moore said it would have been difficult to separate the two groups and “we allowed free speech throughout the area.”
The altercation was the latest in a series of confrontations that have marred recent Trump events.
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