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Suspect in Wal-Mart pepper spray attack refuses to talk with LAPD

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef015393895cfe970b-320wiA woman under investigation for allegedly attacking 20 shoppers with pepper spray at a Wal-Mart Black Friday sale invoked her right against self-incrimination to Los Angeles police officials.

The unidentified woman came to an LAPD station Saturday -- but declined to answer questions about the incident at a Porter Ranch Wal-Mart store. She was not taken into custody, and the investigation is continuing.

Authorities have called the woman a "competitive shopper," who purposely used pepper spray to get merchandise she wanted.

Detectives plan to interview as many victims and witnesses to the attack as they can before deciding whether to seek criminal charges against the woman.

"We have a ton of witnesses and victims to interview," said LAPD Officer Bruce Borihanh. "We know who she is."

Investigators declined to speculate Saturday whether the woman brandished the spray because she felt threatened by the crowd of jostling shoppers or to gain an advantage so she could grab an Xbox game console that was on sale.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene to The Times.

Alejandra Seminario, 24, said she was waiting in line to grab some toys at the store around 9:55 p.m. when people in the next aisle started shouting and ripping at the plastic wrap encasing gaming consoles. The store was supposed to open at 10.

"People started screaming, pulling and pushing each other, and then the whole area filled up with pepper spray," the Sylmar resident said. "I guess what triggered it was people started pulling the plastic off the pallets and then shoving and bombarding the display of games. It started with people pushing and screaming because they were getting shoved onto the boxes."

The pepper spray wafted through the air, Seminario said, and she breathed some in and started coughing. Her face also started to itch.

The Los Angeles Fire Department arrived to treat those who were affected. Shoppers complained of minor skin and eye irritation and sore throats. None of the injuries was serious.

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-- Bob Pool and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: The scene outside the Porter Ranch Wal-Mart on Friday evening. Credit: Andrew Blankstein / Los Angeles Times

 
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