Sheriff’s training with chemical agents unintentionally gas elementary school students

SAN BRUNO, CA – A training exercise by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office took an alarming turn when chemical agents used during the drill affected dozens of students and staff at a nearby elementary school on Tuesday.

The incident occurred at approximately 12:45 p.m. during a two-hour crowd control training session at the San Bruno jail. The exercise involved testing chemical agents, including CS gas and OC gas, commonly known as tear gas and pepper spray. Despite being conducted in an “isolated section” of the facility, the agents drifted beyond the designated training areas, impacting the surrounding community, including Portola Elementary School.

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Office had informed the San Bruno Police Department and Fire Department about the training beforehand. However, the unexpected spread of the chemical agents led to reports of burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat among students and teachers.

Interim Principal John Nazar of Portola Elementary School recounted the confusion and difficulty in deciding whether to keep the children indoors or outdoors as they experienced symptoms. He later discovered that the cause was the chemical agents used in the sheriff’s training exercise.

Tara Moriarty, Director of Communications for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office, emphasized the importance of these trainings for law enforcement, noting that they provide critical hands-on experience and help ensure the safety of equipment. However, she acknowledged the unprecedented nature of this incident and issued a formal apology to the school community.

Moriarty confirmed that the sheriff’s office has been conducting training at this site for over two decades without similar incidents. In response to the event, the department has decided to pause all future chemical agent training exercises to review and improve safety measures to prevent such occurrences in the future.

Members of the sheriff’s command staff visited Portola Elementary School to explain the situation and apologize for the mishap. Moriarty expressed sincere regret for the distress caused to the children, faculty, and their families, emphasizing the department’s commitment to ensuring community safety.