pepper sprayed 10 year old in school

Lawsuit Filed in 2018 Lopez Elementary School Pepper Spray Incident

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – A lawsuit has been brought against the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office due to alleged permanent physical injury to a ten-year-old female student that occurred while she was at school at Lopez Elementary in Seffner. The alleged injuries were caused by a deputy’s carelessness in October 2018.

Former Lopez Elementary School Resource Officer, Deputy Patricia Parker, discharged pepper spray into a napkin, during a cafeteria demonstration, to a small group of students curious about her gear belt contents. All students present were affected by the discharge and were immediately examined by the school nurse, including Rivera’s daughter, who was struck in the eyes according to the lawsuit. It was determined that none of the students required further medical aid. Deputy Parker, a retired sheriff who had served the Sheriff’s Office from 1990 to 2015, resigned the next day.

According to a New York Post report on October 11, 2018, Sheriff Chad Chronister had something to say publicly about the incident. “This was a teachable moment with some impressionable children who look up to us, and our deputy failed to meet the most minimum of our expectations…This was an extreme lack of judgment, and by resigning this morning, she recognized that as well.”  Sheriff’s spokesman Daniel Alvarez had also commented, “That’s not a toy, and she knew that.”

Two years later, Isabella Rivera is still suffering from the pepper spray incident, according to her father Justin Rivera, Sr. Mr. Rivera filed a lawsuit on October 22 demanding a trial by jury without detailing the child’s specific, permanent injuries or a specific date and time the incident occurred. For these reasons, the Sheriff’s Office is attempting to dismiss this case, along with citing Florida Statutes indicating the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office itself cannot be sued as it is not an “agency” or “subdivision” within the State of Florida. Several preceding court cases were referenced in the Motion to Dismiss.

Rivera’s attorney is Kenneth Mastrilli of The Pawlowski Mastrilli Law Group in Tampa. Questions were posed to Mr. Mastrilli regarding this case, but there has been no response.

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