Three members of the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office are regretting they raised their hand to volunteer on Thursday.
That’s because they signed up to get hit in the face with something that could become the next best weapon of defense for law enforcement officers.
All three of the officers, including Chris-Lee Wallace, a detention deputy were hit with a packet of pepper spray gel from a JPX-450 gun.
The new material is not potent and allows officers to safely apprehend a suspect with the weapon without contaminating people or objects around the person.
Unlike normal pepper spray, which can spread once it is sprayed, the gel pepper spray sticks to a persons face and burns.
And as Ron Teeters, the product training instructor told the deputies, it’s not just the pepper spray that’s surprising.
“The initial shot is a shock as well,” Teeters said.
Wallace was one of the first to get hit with gel, which projects out of a gun mechanism at 405 mph.
“It almost felt like a gun shot,” Wallace said. “It’s like cayenne pepper mixed with sand.”
As long as the gel is on a person, it continues to burn. After each volunteer was shot with the substance, they had to hose off for 10 minutes and made sure all of the gel was off of their body.
“If I wouldn’t have had my eyes closed like I was instructed to do, it would have affected me right away,” Wallace said. “Once it’s on you, you can’t get it off.”
The new gel substance has only been on the market for a little over a month now. It was drawn up in Texas and law enforcement officers in the Lone Star state are already using the pepper spray gel.
The guns themselves cost $300. Sgt. Scott Haines, the Public Information Officer with the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office said that the weapon that was demonstrated on Thursday might be in the hands of local law enforcement at some time. But with budget cuts looming over the department, it could be a while.
“They wanted to do a demonstration for us,” Haines said. “It’s another affective tool for law enforcement.”
The reason it’s so affective, he said, was because it doesn’t affect other people around the person that is shot with the gel.
“It’s more concentrated to one individual,” Haines said. “It’s definitely going to be something we will be talking about.”
Each cartridge loaded into the gun holds two shots of the gel.
Teeters said that this device is a better method to use than pepper spray and even tazers.
“Tazers can kill people,” Teeters said. “This is a safe way to apprehend someone without affecting those around that person.”