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Bear spray turns July Fourth fireworks display into 'total chaos'

One man was sprayed directly into the face and was taken to the hospital by ambulance, an arrest affidavit says.

TRINIDAD, Colo. — A July Fourth fireworks display at a Trinidad baseball stadium took a bad turn Monday night when a woman discharged bear spray into a crowd of hundreds of spectators.

Marshall Graves was there with his wife, two daughters and other family members, enjoying the show at Central Park Baseball Stadium, when they noticed a strange smell and at first thought it was from the fireworks.

"All of a sudden, it got worse and worse," Graves said. "You could not breathe."

According to Trinidad police, a woman was shouting obscenities during the fireworks display. Several people approached to ask her to leave, and she discharged a can of bear spray at them. The spray then spread throughout the stadium.

An officer who responded said he encountered multiple people who appeared to be in "serious pain and distress" from exposure to the spray.

Graves said he didn't know what was happening until he and his family were hit by the spray.

"After that it was just total chaos," Graves said.

His daughter started gasping for air, and he started to choke. His eyes were burning. The crowd of hundreds fled up the stairs in the stands, toward the exits. People were hacking and coughing, he said.

Graves caught the moment of the attack on video:

Police identified the suspect as Korie Howlett, 24, who was found with a can of "bear attack deterrent."

She told police that she had the spray to defend herself from an ex-boyfriend whom she accused of stalking her. Officers noted an odor of alcohol on her breath and that it appeared she was under the influence, the Trinidad Police Department said in a news release.

A woman told police, according to an affidavit, that Howlett tried to leave the scene. That woman reported that she tried to prevent Howlett from leaving and was pushed down and assaulted by Howlett, the affidavit says.

That woman's husband was sprayed directly in the face and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, according to the affidavit.

Howlett was booked into the Las Animas County jail on suspicion of:

  • 5 counts of third-degree assault
  • 1 count of attempted second-degree assault
  • 1 count of child abuse
  • 1 count of disorderly conduct

According to witnesses, before the attack, Howlett was screaming about how people don't have rights and shouldn't be celebrating the Fourth of July, KRDO reported.

None of the multiple witnesses interviewed by police reported that Howlett had been attacked by anyone and all saw her as the "primary aggressor," the affidavit says.

Graves and his family didn't seek medical attention. They woke the next morning with irritated eyes and a cough, but the symptoms have since subsided, he said.

"Everybody's entitled to their opinion, everybody's entitled to their voice," Graves said. "We all have our issues and our problems, but there's a time and place and way to handle things, and that definitely wasn't the one."

RELATED: Man arrested for spraying Greeley Walmart employees with bear spray

RELATED: Thousands of firework calls tie up 911 emergency phone lines in Colorado

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