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Children Pepper Sprayed While Playing In Their Neighborhood

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Photo: Video by NewsChannel5.com

Children Pepper Sprayed While Playing In Their Neighborhood

CREATED May 2, 2014
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas

COLUMBIA, Tenn. - Children playing in a Maury County neighborhood were the targets of a potentially dangerous prank. They were pepper sprayed by strangers driving by in an SUV.

“Normally what they do every day, riding their bikes, sitting in everybody’s yard,” resident Tamela Bailey said. “Everybody over here over here get(s) along.”

The bikes and toys in the front yards are one indication that a lot of children live on Nowlin Drive in Columbia. On Thursday, many were outside playing around 6:30 p.m. when an SUV driving up the road slowed down.

“One of the guys on the passenger side had his hand out the window and he pepper sprayed the children,” Bailey explained. “All the kids (came) right here. They ran down here on their bicycle. They couldn't’t see. They were just running. My nephew couldn't open his eyes.”

The incident triggered her nephew's asthma and he had to seek medical attention. Next door, Shatonya Armstrong's sons ran home to tell her what happened.

“His eyes are just real watery,” she said about one of her sons after getting sprayed. “I don't see why someone would come down the street and do something like that.”

Officers arrested 19-year-old Nicholas Hendricks and charged him with four counts of aggravated assault.

“Fortunately, we were able to locate him relatively quickly,” Columbia Police Sgt. Scott Knudson said about the suspect.

According to the police report, some of the passengers in the SUV said it would be "funny" if Hendricks pepper sprayed the kids. After some peer pressure, the report said he did.

Hendricks told police "he did not think it would spray that far that it would hit the children."

“I feel like the rest of the people in the truck knew what was going on and knew what was going to happen,” Armstrong said. “So I feel like something should happen to them also.”

Parents said they're still going to let their children come out to play, but they've warned their kids to be on their guard

“That's why it hurts so bad (sic) because they don't bother anybody,” Bailey said. “They're not on the street corner. They're not doing anything. They're kids. So let them be. Don't come over here terrorizing them.”

The children didn't know anyone in the SUV and their parents think the attack was racially motivated. Especially after they said a family member of the driver of the SUV used a racial slur during a confrontation with parents.

When Police asked Hendricks, he denied that the children were targeted because they are African American.

Email: acline-thomas@newschannel5.com