Jan. 6 Detainees Injured: Trapped In Cells Ventilated With Mace

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  • Source: UncoverDC
  • 09/19/2023

"Mace or some kind of gas" sprayed at a Jan. 6 detainee who allegedly refused to wear a mask while "drinking his coffee" reportedly "went into a [ventilation system] intake that fed other cells" holding J6 detainees. The use of the spray was authorized under a policy enacted by the Obama administration in 2015. As a result, several of the J6 defendants were allegedly trapped for about 15 minutes, unable to escape the spray as it overtook them in their cells. The 38 detainees are being detained for Jan. 6 pre-trial cases in a wing dedicated to J6 defendants.

The complaint, filed on Nov. 12, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, reveals the horrifying details.

The United States of America v. Kelly Meggs complaint, alleges that one of the detainees who refused to wear a mask was sprayed with "some kind of mace or pepper spray."

At about 1:40 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11, Kelly Meggs' family relayed the information after having spoken with him about the macing incident that had occurred earlier in the day. The complaint describes what Meggs told his family by phone on Thursday:

"When a January 6 detainee in the CTF/D.C. jail refused to wear a mask, the guards responded with some kind of mace or pepper spray. This created a disturbance and the wing was locked down at 10 a.m."

"They sprayed mace or some type of gas and an inmate and the lady with the key left because she didn't like the gas, so the inmates in the cells who were being fed the gas from that intake were locked in for like 15 minutes while it was going into their rooms and they couldn't see/breathe."

"Had to take some guys out in stretchers to the med bays." 

"That is, it seems to have been the ventilation system acting on its own that created most of the problems, although one wonders if the initial action was the correct action."

The complaint says that Meggs "was not in one of the cells that the gas was being cycled into by the ventilation system." There are also conflicting reports about the number of detainees being "taken out on stretchers" as well as confusion, at this point, about whether the removal of detainees were reactive to their injuries or preventative measures. It is still unclear how severe the injuries were, according to the complaint.

UncoverDC alluded to the macing incident in its story on Nov. 12. However, because the story was emergent, UDC was unaware of the severity of the allegations at the time of its reporting. If it is indeed true that the guards who sprayed the mace "kept missing so it went into an intake the fed into other cells," then it would seem to further bolster other allegations of abuse in the J6 wing of the jail. The alleged abuse refers to J6 detainees who are "scared for their lives" because of alleged "mental torture" and beatings by guards.

In fact, "[D]ays before the Marshals Service’s inspection last month, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth held the Department of Corrections in contempt for failing to arrange adequate medical treatment for one alleged rioter, Christopher Worrell. Lamberth also ordered prosecutors to refer the issue to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for further review," per reporting by Politico.

Steve Bannon discusses the macing event on his Nov. 13 broadcast below with Cynthia Hughes whose nephew has been in the jail since January of 2021. She says the man who refused to wear his mask was trying to drink his coffee and make a phone call. The man was maced three times in his face and the "whole pod filled up with mace" fumes. "You could smell it in the ventilation system over a mask," she continued.

Hughes explains, "Five guys were taken out to medical. One was taken out on a stretcher and could not feel his arms and couldn't breathe." And, a seventy-year-old veteran, Lonnie Leroy Coffman, was also taken out because he couldn't breathe. A fight allegedly also broke out briefly. "All over a mask," she said. Most of those detained are charged with Class 1 misdemeanors:



Kelly Meggs and his wife, Connie Meggs, were allegedly part of the Oath Keepers group, led by Person One, who allegedly "stormed" the Capitol on January 6. Warren Beattie, of Revolver News, hypothesizes that Person One is probably Stewart Rhodes. Beattie thinks Rhodes is Person One because he "is the central figure of the organization. He is the founder, leader and center of gravity for the group."

Oddly, unlike the case against Meggs and his wife, Rhodes has yet to be indicted, even though he was almost certainly in charge of planning to storm the capitol per "a Signal chat called “DC OP: Jan 6 21.” Beattie believes he can prove Rhodes is  linked with the FBI, an association, he says, that has helped Rhodes escape charges.

The tactic of using mace and Oleoresin Capsicum Spray (OC spray) in jails to intimidate or control prisoners who do not follow rules is relatively recent. In fact, it was authorized in a 2015 pilot program, per this Operations Memo from the Department of Justice.

The authorization came as a result of a program called "The Use of Force and Application of Restraints" that permitted its use to "incapacitate or disable disruptive, assaultive, or armed inmates posing a threat to the safety of others or to institution security and good order." The program had been scheduled to expire on 2/26/2016.

President Obama, however, signed the Correctional Officer Protection Act into law in 2015. The Act authorized the "issue [of] oleoresin capsicum spray (pepper spray) to correctional officers and other employees at all federal prisons except minimum and low security." Only trained personnel are authorized to use the chemical on inmates.

There is a perplexing preponderance of conflicting information on the use and/or authorization for use of OC spray in prisons. For example, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports a 2018 Bureau of Prisons (BOP) decision stating that the use of OC spray would not be authorized at minimum security prisons. The same government accountability office (GAO) report states that "BOP first issued pepper spray to employees in high security prisons in August 2012 and to medium, low, and administrative security prisons in subsequent years."

Additionally, a 2017 DOJ document on the policy states in a note:

Note: The Program Statement Correctional Services Manual indicates that OC aerosol dispensers should not be used at a range closer than four feet. The OC aerosol dispenser is designed primarily for immediate use of force in situations where there is a serious threat to the safety of staff, inmates, or others; to prevent serious property damage; and to ensure institution security and good order.

The D.C. jail housing J6 detainees is a specialized medium security institution.

The use of the spray has resulted in death in some cases. And, there are reports of it having been "secretly rolled out" during the pandemic in prisons in Great Britain. Notably, a Nov. 2020 story from New Zealand writes of prison guards actually feeding gas into the cells of the Auckland Women's prison. The guards deployed four canisters of Mace with "a silver hose, about the width of a pen, attached to a black canister," slipped under a prisoner's door while "placing towels under the door to stop the gas [from] escaping." The tactic was used to "incapacitate the prisoner so guards can remove them from the cell without fear of resistance."

Pepper Spray/Auckland NZ/

An April 2016 article written by The Nation on the use of pepper spray in prisons describes the chemical agents allegedly being used. The story documents the "thin regulations" of the "less lethal" weapons that permit the use of chemical agents like pepper spray in jails.

"In the United States, “tear gas” is usually an umbrella term for one of two compounds: particulate CS, an aerosolized powder that hits the body’s pain receptors directly, or oleoresin capsicum, alias “pepper spray,” an oil that causes excruciating pain on contact, especially around the eyes, nose and mouth. Both are continually being modified, tested, and retested for improvements. Thanks to thin regulations on so-called “less-lethal” weapons, that testing takes place in the dark, without public disclosure or mandatory medical oversight. That means testing doesn’t have to be oriented toward minimizing risk: It can focus on maximizing pain."

"At least two newer compounds incorporate silica gel for a longer-lasting and more painful presence that’s hard to get out of clothes. One lab-developed tear-gas variant is six times as reactive as the industry standard. Some 37-millimeter grenades used in prisons now mix CS gas and pepper spray for an instant, lasting burn that causes hours of swelling around orifices and nerve pain everywhere on the skin."

The same article mentions the War Resisters League whose group started a "letter-writing campaign in its prison newsletter" whereby they "obtained testimony from 18 states on the use of tear gas and pepper spray against inmates—in men’s and women’s prisons, maximum- and medium- security facilities, across the country."

Julie Kelly, interviewed here on Nov. 5 by Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, discusses the J6 defendants and their plight. She says they have been treated unfairly--denying bail to non-violent offenders and are being held as political prisoners. Some of the trials have been delayed well into 2022, which means many are being still being detained in jail for pre-trial cases and are, essentially, being held hostage.

Not one person associated with Jan.6 has been charged with treason, insurrection or sedition. Most have no prior criminal history. About 700 people have been arrested due to the January 6 protests. "This is not the America we know," says Greene, "It sounds like something that would happen in Communist China or maybe in Nazi Germany in the past or some horrible third world country."


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