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Not at Fault in Park Fracas, Police Find : Crime: An altercation with a family at Brookside Park led to the use of tear gas. An investigation reportedly has found no wrongdoing.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After interviewing 16 police officers and more than 30 witnesses, investigators have found no evidence of police wrongdoing during a violent altercation with a family of picnickers in Brookside Park.

“At this point, no disciplinary issues have surfaced,” Police Chief Jerry Oliver said Tuesday before briefing the City Council in closed session.

Members of the family last week, through City Councilman Isaac Richard, charged that one police officer had used a racial epithet and another had indiscriminately sprayed bystanders with tear gas during the incident Aug. 17, when two men were subdued by police and charged with assault.

Richard said last week that videotapes of the incident raised questions about the ability of the police to control crowds. He would not comment further Wednesday.

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The incident began when police questioned James McCullough, who was reported to be wearing a dress and a woman’s wig and carrying a doll. Police said McCullough, a member of a family holding a reunion near the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, had been talking to children in the park.

The children turned out to be McCullough’s own. But McCullough allegedly turned on police officers, attacking them physically.

Michael Harrison, another member of the family, then allegedly jumped on an officer’s back. One police officer sprayed Mace, or tear-gas spray, at one of the two men. Two police officers and some bystanders, including a 2-year-old boy, were treated for tear-gas exposure.

Police said the officer aimed the spray at the alleged assailants, adding that the bystanders and the other officers were exposed to residue in the air.

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In statements last week, Richard described the family as “law-abiding, God-fearing citizens” who had lost confidence in the police to administer law enforcement even-handedly.

“These are not the Pasadena Crips,” he said, calling for the suspension of the officer who sprayed Mace and another who was accused of using a racial epithet.

Two or three videotapes reportedly made during the incident by witnesses continue to be withheld from police investigators, Oliver said. “We’ve tried everything, short of court orders and subpoenas, to obtain them,” he said.

But citizens who have seen the tapes have told investigators that they did not show “officers being brutal or making flagrant remarks,” Oliver said.

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The incident has prompted police brass to review crowd control tactics employed by the department, and it may lead to new training procedures, the chief said.

But police investigators have “exhausted all reasonable means of obtaining the truth” about the incident, Oliver said. The investigation will be discontinued unless new evidence turns up, he said.

What he called a “significant fraction” of the Police Department--10 investigators from the internal affairs division and other units--has been used in the investigation, Oliver said.

“In a sense, it’s time to move on to other matters,” he said.

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