Halifax man pepper-sprays teen over gay slurs

A 39-year-old Halifax man says he used pepper spray on a teenager after she harassed his partner for six weeks.

"I actually pepper-sprayed her," said Christopher Whittle. Whittle spoke with the CBC's Elizabeth Chiu because he wants people to know this was not a random act.

The incident happened last Friday, when Halifax Regional Police said a 14-year-old girl was sprayed with an irritant near the parking lot of the Halifax Shopping Centre.

Police released an image of the suspect, and Whittle was arrested hours later.

Whittle said this was not a planned attack. But he said the girl has been taunting his boyfriend who works at the mall for weeks. Whittle said the slurs began when his partner wore beads from gay pride to work.

"This was happening every few days. She was coming and making comments about him being gay, and basically just taunting him for who he was, calling him a faggot, fruit whatever," Whittle said.

Friday, Whittle said he witnessed an incident between the girl and his partner. He said he snapped.

"After so much of this going on, and seeing how this affected him – someone you love being tortured in this way, it does something to you. It really does."

He said he went to his car and got the spray. He said he owned it for self-defense purposes.

Whittle said he was shocked to find out the person he sprayed was a 14-year-old girl. He said she looks older, and assumed she was a woman.

"I do regret how I handled it. I could have handled it differently. But at the time I guess I was just so upset with everything that had gone on, that's how I reacted."

Police say whatever the reason, there's no excuse to pepper spray anyone.

"They should take other means such as calling police, and allow us to deal with it so they don't find themselves in a position of being charged criminally," said Halifax Const. Brian Palmeter.

Whittle doesn't have a criminal record but he now faces four charges including assault with a weapon and possession of a dangerous weapon.

He's scheduled to appear in Provincial court on Oct. 30.

Whittle said he knows he could face jail time if convicted, but he had to take a stand.

"It's just sad that someone can come into your place of employment or wherever and harass you and turn your whole world upside down for ignorance, basically," said Whittle.