COSTA MESA : Self-Defense Teacher Wary of Pepper Spray


Ted Encinas teaches self-defense techniques using pepper spray and traditional tear gas.

But he has strong misgivings about using pepper spray, which became legal for civilian use in March.

Encinas, who will teach a self-defense workshop at Orange Coast College this month, is a retired Santa Ana police officer who owns and operates California Security Academy in Garden Grove.

“I educate them as to what is available and what the liabilities are,” the 53-year-old Costa Mesa resident said.


But after taking his course, students are 10 times more likely to purchase traditional CN and CS types of tear gas than pepper spray, he said.

State law requires people purchasing tear gas, including pepper spray, to have a certificate showing they have successfully completed a self-defense course in its use.

One thing that concerns Encinas about pepper sprays is the deaths that have occurred after the disabling device was used by police officers on suspects.

When the product enters the body through the eyes, nose or mouth, immediate effects include bronchial spasms, swelling of mucous membranes and restricted breathing.

The only brand of pepper spray approved for public use against humans in California is First Defense, which is made by Defense Technology Corp. of America of Casper, Wyo.

Company spokesman Michael Reed said about 30 deaths have occurred after the use of pepper spray.


But all these fatalities were caused by other factors, such as heart conditions and heavy intoxication, rather than the pepper spray itself, he said.

“Our formula is totally natural,” according to Reed, who said the active ingredient, which is extracted from a pepper seed, is purchased from a spice company.

“You could eat it if you could stand it,” Reed said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has weighed in on the issue by calling for additional research on the possible medical hazards of pepper spray.

In addition, the ACLU maintains that the effectiveness of pepper spray has been “vastly over-promoted,” according to Public Affairs Director Allan Parachini.

“We are afraid that people will have entirely too much confidence in it,” said Parachini, who testified in the case of an Oregon police officer who was beaten to death in 1992 by a suspect who had just been doused with pepper spray.

Parachini is concerned that an attacker could turn on the user and “become significantly more violent” after being sprayed, that the pepper spray could be turned against the owner, and that the public will ignore options such as running away or screaming for help in dangerous situations.


When tear gas or pepper gas does work properly, an attacker can be quickly subdued--even at distances up to 25 feet, Encinas said.

Victims of the spray typically bend over in intense pain, temporarily blinded by tears, and the noxious effects often last for about 30 minutes.

“You’re coughing, you’re gagging, your eyes are burning, your skin is burning,” Encinas said.

An advantage of tear gas over other weapons is that the small canisters are easy to hold and quick to use, said Encinas, who discourages people from purchasing guns for home defense unless they commit to an ongoing training program.

The self-defense workshop is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, July 23, at the college, 2701 Fairview Road in Costa Mesa.

The fee is $49, which includes a tear gas certification card.

To register, call (714) 432-5880.