Man charged with pepper spray attacks in DC park

A federal grand jury has indicted a man accused of attacking people with pepper spray in a DC park, and he faces an enhanced hate crime sentence for the assaults.

A federal grand jury has indicted a man accused of attacking people with pepper spray in a DC park, and he faces an enhanced hate crime sentence for the assaults.

Michael Thomas Pruden, 48, formerly of Maryland, is charged with five counts of assault for incidents that occurred from 2018 to 2021 at Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park.

He also faces an enhanced sentence for hate crimes, as prosecutors allege he assaulted “four of the victims because of their perceived sexual orientation,” a press release from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office said. of Columbia.

The park is unofficially known as a meeting place for men seeking sex with other men.

Authorities said Pruden went to the park and assaulted five men with pepper spray, authorities said. Court documents say he posed as a US Park Police officer, shining a flashlight in the victims’ faces and giving them police-like orders.

“Attacks typically occur after dark during hours when the park is technically closed,” a spokesperson for the US Parks Police told OMCP last year.

Pruden, who taught at schools in Prince George’s County, was acquitted last year of a similar attack on two people at Daingerfield Island in Alexandria, Virginia. At the time of his arrest for the Virginia attack in May 2021, US Park Police suspected Pruden was linked to the Meridian Hill Park attacks.

Pruden was arrested Thursday in Norfolk. He faces 10 years for each assault and three years for impersonating a federal officer. Improving the sentence for hate crimes increases the scope of the potential sentence for counts of assault.


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