Lawsuit filed over pepper spray injury during police training

COLUMBIA - The mother of a Boone County man filed a lawsuit Monday, accusing pepper spray manufacturer Sabre Industries, also known as Sabre Red, of failing to warn about possible effects of its products.

The petition said Sabre's product caused severe injury to Galeel Lee, 22, in October 2018 during training at the Law Enforcement Training Institute in Columbia. At the time, Lee was training to become a police officer.

According to the petition, Lee was sprayed with Sabre's pepper spray in the face as part of the training. Minutes later, he collapsed, lost consciousness and started to have a seizure. EMTs determined Lee's heart had gone into ventricular fibrillation, meaning it was beating very quickly but not pumping enough blood.

Doctors later diagnosed Lee as having suffered "pepper spray arrhythmia," citing a study which found people with preexisting heart conditions may be at a higher risk of heart complications if exposed to irritants like pepper spray. According to the lawsuit, Lee's injuries led to brain injury and permanent body injuries "all as a direct and proximate result of SABRE Red's failure to...warn the direct users of its pepper spray in training...about the dangerous and life-threatening properties of that product."

The petition claims Sabre has marketed its pepper spray for years as "the #1 pepper spray trusted by police and consumers worldwide,"describing it as "a less-than-lethal weapon for safety and defense." As for warnings, the petition said "the only 'warning' it gives the user...states: 'CAUTION: SEVERE SKIN, EYE AND RESPIRATORY IRRITANT.'"

The suit is seeking a jury trial and compensation of at least $25,000.

The A.W. Smith Law Firm, which represents Lee, told KOMU 8 News it cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.

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