Deputy accused of pepper-spraying teen’s pizza faces charges Monday

A sheriff’s deputy who allegedly pepper-sprayed a teenager’s pizza during a routine traffic stop in south Orange County will be in court Monday to face criminal charges.

Juan Tavera, a six-year veteran of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, spotted the pizza in the back seat of the 19-year-old’s car and sprayed it without the youth’s knowledge, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

The teen, authorities said, and a group of friends later became sick after eating the tainted pizza.

Authorities charged Juan Tavera, 30, with one misdemeanor count of assault or battery by a public officer. If convicted, he faces a potential sentence of one year in jail, according to county prosecutors.

Tavera allegedly pulled up to the spot where a 19-year-old man had been pulled over by another officer for a traffic violation in Laguna Hills last Sept. 8. During the course of the traffic stop, the deputy is accused of reaching into the back seat and spraying the pizza.


Later at home, the victim shared the pizza with four friends, and all five became sick.

The teen called authorities after becoming suspicious of his earlier encounter with Tavera.

Sheriff’s officials investigated the case before forwarding it to the Orange County district attorney for review.


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