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Pepper Spray Triggers HAZMAT Response at Westwood Apartment Building

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

A 52-year old Westwood man was arrested by Lassen County Sheriff’s Deputies Monday after he allegedly released pepper spray in an apartment building, triggering a multi-agency HAZMAT response and forcing nine people to evacuate and seek medical attention.

At around 8:30a.m., according to LCSO Sergeant Dustin Russell,  the Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center received five 911 calls from callers stating that they believed they were sprayed with some type of poison at 220 Cedar Street in Westwood.

220 Cedar Street is a two-story apartment building with 13 tenants, including six children. Nine of the tenants evacuated the building and sought medical treatment and evaluation.

“Deputies from the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call along with a California Highway Patrol Officer,” explains Russell. “Deputies initially cleared the building to ensure there were no additional victims.”

The deputies noticed a foul smell inside the apartments and evacuated the building, requesting a HAZMAT team.

Members from Lassen County Emergency Services, Westwood Fire, Cal-Fire, Susanville Fire, and OES HAZMAT unit HM32 responded to assess the situation.

“The team members utilized a multi-gas detector and a photoionization detector to test the air quality,” said Russell. “The team also utilized PH and M8 chemical detection paper. There were no deviation in the monitors and the building was declared safe to enter.”

Deputies were unable to locate the source of the chemical agent and, due to conflicting stories, Detectives obtained a search warrant for two apartments in the building. A search was conducted of one apartment and the source was located. The chemical source was determined to be oleoresin capsicum (pepper spray).

Deputies arrested 52 year-old Westwood resident John Hussain. He was booked into the Lassen County Jail for one felony count of being felon in possession of tear gas and one felony count for use of tear gas except in self-defense. Bail was set at $30,000 and the case was submitted to the Lassen County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

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