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West Palm Beach police chief issues correction, admits tear gas used on protesters

Chief Frank Adderley says police officer grabbed wrong can during Sunday night's protests
West Palm Beach Police Chief Frank Adderley apologizes for using tear gas on protesters
Posted at 4:57 PM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 17:56:54-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The West Palm Beach police chief is issuing an apology and a correction after providing inaccurate information following Sunday night's protests that turned violent.

"I want to apologize. We don't want to misinform the community," Police Chief Frank Adderley told WPTV NewsChannel 5 in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

Adderley admitted that mistakes were made when peaceful protests turned violent on Sunday night in downtown West Palm Beach.

"The question was asked on me on Monday, did you use gas? I said no. Then, we got more information that says, yes, we did," Adderley said.

Adderley spoke candidly with WPTV on Wednesday, saying both he and his officers were not wearing gas masks on Sunday and were ordered to deploy smoke into what he called an unruly crowd.

But Adderley later learned after a debriefing the next day, and after speaking with West Palm Beach restaurant owner Rodney Mayo, that was not the case.

"We later find out when we met with Rodney Mayo, he showed us the empty canister and he said people near him were gassed," Adderley said.

RELATED: Business owner blames police for escalating violence on Clematis Street

Adderley said it appears accidental, saying his officer grabbed the wrong can thinking it was smoke, but instead it was CS gas, also known as tear gas.

Shattered glass to Clematis Street storefront after violent protest
Shattered glass to a Clematis Street storefront marks a night of violent protests in West Palm Beach.

"I'm asking that you accept my correction here with the info because we have some misinformation to the public," Adderley said.

Kathleen Walter, spokeswoman for the city of West Palm Beach, released this statement to WPTV:

"The police department’s reaction to disperse a crowd of individuals was entirely appropriate as our police were the subject of attack. Mayor James was absolutely right to debunk false claims that our police instigated a confrontation with protesters and that police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters who had been mostly peaceful. Any information provided during Monday’s press conference by either Mayor or Chief was based on the information known to them at the time. In the interest of full transparency, new information they learned since, including a list of the non-lethal force used by officers in their defense, was shared with the media and posted on our website. You can’t get more transparent than that. To the credit of our Mayor and the West Palm Beach Police Department, it should be noted that more than 3000 individuals participated in the protest, and no one was injured."

"We evaluate it, going to make some adjustments, and make sure it never happens again," Adderley said.

The police chief added this is the first time gas was used in the field since he started, but he said his officers were justified in using it because bottles and rocks were being thrown at them.

WPTV is told the gas canisters will now be painted a different color to prevent another mix-up in the future.