Man arrested after spraying gay men with chemical irritant

WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — A federal grand jury indicted a Maryland man with five counts of assault and other charges after he allegedly sprayed gay men with a chemical irritant at Meridian Hill Park in D.C. from 2018 to 2021.

Michael Thomas Pruden, 48, was also charged with one count of impersonating a federal officer, and a hate crimes sentencing enhancement alleging that he assaulted four people due to their perceived sexual orientation.

The indictment alleges that between 2018 and 2021, Prudent went to Meridian Hill Park Park, which is informally known to the D.C. community as a location for men seeking consensual sex with other men. He went on five separate dates and assaulted five men with a chemical irritant. Prior to spraying the victims, Pruden would pretend to be a Park Police officer, shining flashlights and giving orders to the victims. The indictment alleges that he assaulted four people due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Officials arrested Pruden in Norfolk, Virginia on July 14.

He is facing a statutory max sentence of 10 years for each assault count and a three-year statutory max sentence for the impersonation of a federal officer

If you believe that you were a victim of, or witnessed, a similar assault in Meridian Hill Park, you can call the FBI tip line, 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324). 

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