Washington, D.C. park. He was arrested in Norfolk, Va.Prosecutors allege Michael Thomas Pruden, 48, impersonated a Park police officer at Meridian Park, aka Malcolm X Park, after dark on five separate occasions between 2018 and 2021.
The park is allegedly a popular cruising spot for queer men, and the indictment claims Pruden specifically targeted these men for his chemical attacks.“Before spraying the men, Pruden pretended to be a Park Police officer, shined a flashlight in the victims’ faces, and gave the victims police-style directives,” the Department of Justice said in a press release. “The indictment alleges that Pruden assaulted four of the victims because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.”Pruden had been arrested on similar charges last year in Virginia but was acquitted at trial in a federal court in Alexandria.In that case, two victims claimed Pruden approached them in the park, identified himself as a police officer, then sprayed them with pepper spray.
He also allegedly beat one of the men with a large stick.One witness who saw the alleged attack told police the stick was “approximately three feet in length, two inches in diameter” and that Pruden yelled “I’ll get you!” at the victims as they tried to escape.
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