Police use pepper spray to break up Country Club Plaza crowds

The Country Club Plaza area was awash with pepper spray Saturday night as police struggled to disperse a rowdy gathering of hundreds of young people.

At least one person was reported with a serious head injury about 11:20 p.m. in the parking lot outside Winstead’s restaurant.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the person was injured. The victim was taken to nearby St. Luke’s Hospital.

Several dozen police officers spent much of the evening attempting to disperse large crowds — totaling an estimated 500 to 1,000 people — that gathered at various spots in the shopping district. Police at times used pepper spray at multiple locations to break up disturbances.

A police helicopter circled overhead, calling in reports to officers on the ground about fights or the locations of large gatherings.

A number of fights broke out during the evening, and at least one strong-arm robbery was reported about 10:15 p.m.

Scattered reports of property being damaged were received. Police also reported finding a knife on the ground after another disturbance was broken up.

About 10:40 p.m., police began shutting down traffic on 47th Street through the Plaza.

Otavio Silva, the husband of Kansas City Star reporter Jill Silva, said he received a face full of pepper spray while he and his dinner party were walking behind a large group of young people.

Silva said the youths were walking down the sidewalk and he hadn’t witnessed them misbehaving when a police car pulled up and officers told them to “move on” before unleashing a blast of the chemical spray.

A police spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

By 11:30 p.m., much of the crowd had moved to the park around the J.C. Nichols Fountain.

At one point some officers reported hearing gunshots, but other officers who were nearby reported that the noise was actually fireworks.

Police dispatchers said they did not know how many arrests were made.

After the assault at Winstead’s, officers began canvassing the crowd and looking for a suspect described by witnesses.

By 11:45 p.m., most of the crowd had left the Plaza area.

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