David Dempsey is the California man facing charges after police said he used bear spray on a group of anti-Trump protesters during an event in Santa Monica on October 19, 2019.
Witness video shared to YouTube from the event showed the moment that Dempsey pulled a can out and started spraying at people in the crowd. Dempsey is also seen speaking with police afterward. He insisted that he had been attacked by the protesters and expressed surprise when the police put him under arrest.
The video embedded below includes graphic language.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Pro-Trump Supporters & Anti-Trump Activists Exchanged Insults on the Santa Monica Pier Before Getting Violent
The rally at the Santa Monica Pier on October 19, 2019, was planned by liberal groups to denounce President Trump and his administration. According to the Washington Post, the event was put on by a group called “Refuse Fascism.”
The group, along with other left-wing organizations, has scheduled five weeks of protests to show support for the formal impeachment inquiry underway on Capitol Hill. On its website, the group states that the protests are intended to be peaceful. At the Santa Monica event, protesters carried signs that read, “The Trump/Pence regime must go!”
Video from the protest shows a group of President Trump supporters interacting with the activists. It’s difficult to make out exactly what the two sides were saying to each other, but the exchanges were clearly heated.
Police told the Los Angeles Times that the anti-Trump activists began the protest on the beach before walking down the boardwalk. Officers told the newspaper that the pro-Trump group followed the protesters.
After about 10 minutes of yelling, the groups began to shove and punch each other. At about 1:42 in the video embedded above, the man later identified as David Nicholas Dempsey was seen grabbing a canister from his bag and spraying into the crowd. People screamed that it was pepper spray and scrambled to try to get away. It was later determined that the item used was bear repellant. The Santa Monica Daily Press reported that paramedics were on scene to provide medical treatment to those who were hit by the bear spray.
2. David Dempsey Told Police He Was Attacked By the ‘Flag-Burning Commies’
In the video referenced in the first section of this post, David Nicholas Dempsey was recorded talking to police officers at the 4:50 mark. The officers were instructing him to stand in the corner next to the building.
Dempsey is seen passionately asking why he’s the one being questioned, insisting that he and his group had been attacked. Other people from the crowd can be heard disputing his account; at least one person is heard telling the police that he had been recording the whole time.
Dempsey points at the crowd and angrily states, “It was these f***ing libtards over here, man. These commies. These flag-burning commies.” He insisted, “I didn’t do anything.” Others are heard again exclaiming that Dempsey had been the one on the attack with the spray.
At about 6:20, the officers tell Dempsey that they are putting him in handcuffs. Dempsey argued that he was cooperating and didn’t understand why handcuffs were necessary. People in the crowd can be heard applauding as Dempsey was placed under arrest. Another man, who explained that he was Dempsey’s brother, continued to try to argue that Dempsey had been attacked by others in the crowd as Dempsey was led away.
3. Dempsey Is Facing Felony Charges For Assault & Prohibited Use of a Tear Gas Weapon
David Nicholas Dempsey was booked into the Santa Monica Jail, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department website. He was held without bond over the weekend of his arrest.
He was scheduled to appear before a judge on Tuesday, October 22, for an arraignment hearing. Dempsey faces the following charges, according to KTLA-TV.
- Assault with a caustic chemical
- Suspicion of prohibited use of a tear gas weapon
- Violating parole
Dempsey was not permitted to be carrying any kind of tear gas because he has a record as a convicted felon. According to the California legal code, “No person convicted of a felony or any crime involving an assault under the laws of the United States, the State of California, or any other state, government, or country, or convicted of misuse of tear gas under subdivision (g), shall purchase, possess, or use tear gas or any tear gas weapon.”
The legal code also explains the assault with a caustic chemical charge: “Any person who willfully and maliciously places or throws, or causes to be placed or thrown, upon the person of another, any vitriol, corrosive acid, flammable substance, or caustic chemical of any nature, with the intent to injure the flesh or disfigure the body of that person, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three or four years.”
4. David Dempsey Has Previously Been Convicted On Burglary & Larceny Charges In Los Angeles County, Court Records Show
David Nicholas Dempsey has a record of multiple arrests in Los Angeles County dating back to 2006, according to court records.
In November of 2009, Dempsey was convicted of burglary. Records via the Van Nuys Courthouse West indicate that in this case, Dempsey faced 16 months in state prison and a mandatory probation period. He was also convicted of burglary in 2006.
In 2012, Dempsey was convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit a crime and larceny in Burbank. According to court records, Dempsey had been accused of possessing or using a stolen credit card.
Police said that Dempsey was on parole when he was arrested on October 19 at the Santa Monica protest.
5. David Dempsey Frequently Posts About Politics On His Facebook Page
A Facebook page that appeared to belong to David Nicholas Dempsey lists Van Nuys, California as his hometown. He described himself in the bio as “Valley born, Valley raised, Valley Breathing.” It includes that he attended Coutin School, a high school in Los Angeles. In his cover photo, Dempsey sports a Trump 2020 t-shirt that reads, “Make liberals cry again.” The page has been made private since his arrest in Santa Monica.
Dempsey appears to use the page primarily to discuss politics. He has shared stories related to conspiracy theories. For example, he shared a story about antidepressants being “linked to mass murder,” and theories about recent mass shootings.
In early August, Dempsey expressed frustration with the White House after President Trump called for states to implement red flag laws in the aftermath of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. Red flag laws permit family members and law enforcement officials to ask a court to take weapons away from an individual who is suspected of posing a danger to themselves and others. Dempsey wrote on Facebook that the president’s support for this type of law “ain’t f***ing okay” and that he would be “off the Trump train” if the president “shows any other signs of liberalism.”