JANESVILLE — The girl who was pepper sprayed outside Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s Tuesday rally in Janesville was not sexually assaulted and may face juvenile battery charges for punching a man in the face, Janesville police said Thursday.
Police said they are still seeking the man who sprayed her in the face, but they exonerated a Monroe man of wrongdoing during an argument with the girl that took place in the moments before the spraying incident.
Police Chief David Moore said the girl told police she felt pressure on her breast and a witness also told authorities that the girl was groped during the heated encounter.
But Moore said investigators interviewed 13 witnesses and reviewed 40 to 50 images and videos of the altercation and found no evidence that she had been groped during the argument.
“We did not find evidence of a sexual assault,” Moore said. “The video does not support evidence of a sexual assault. It does support that a punch was delivered by the 15-year-old and it certainly supports that the (pepper spray) was sprayed into the face of the 15-year-old.”
Dan Crandall, 59 of Monroe — who spoke with the State Journal about the incident on Tuesday — told police that he was the one arguing with the girl, Moore said. He described Crandall as using “very animated hand gestures” during the verbal altercation and emphasized the closeness of people of the crowd.
“These are pretty close quarters,” he said. “These are emotional times and the brushing up or pushing against someone is probably occurring all over in that crowd.”
Moore said Crandall did not wish to pursue assault charges against the girl, but police have referred the girl to juvenile authorities on a tentative disorderly conduct charge for punching Crandall in the left side of his face.
At a press conference Thursday, police said they are still seeking information on the man who used the pepper spray on the girl.
Asked why none of the 250 police officers working that day stopped the man immediately after the altercation, Moore said that Trump “had either not spoken yet or was in the process of delivering a speech,” and that the officers’ primary responsibility was to “assure freedom of speech, to assure the safety of all.”
“The immediacy of the safety issue was over very quickly,” Moore said. “We saw that that victim got assistance and aid and we knew that we could follow up on this matter later.”
Moore said the distance between the altercation and the nearest police officers, and the way the man drifted back into the crowd combined to make it difficult to identify him immediately.
Police are considering the totality of circumstances, but said the man could face charges of battery or disorderly use of pepper spray, depending on his statements.
A video that’s been widely shared on social media shows at least part of the altercation. It shows a girl at the rally accusing a man of touching her chest and then punching or shoving someone in the crowd before she is pepper sprayed by another, younger man wearing a cap printed with Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” slogan.
The incident is among a series of clashes between protesters and supporters at raucous Trump events.
The suspect’s photo in the pepper-spraying incident has been distributed statewide. Anyone with information is asked to contact Janesville Police Detective Kyle Austin at 608-755-3100. Anonymous tips can be left through Janesville Area Crimestoppers at 608-756-3636.
State Journal reporter Karen Rivedal contributed to this report.