A woman sprayed bear repellent inside a University of Pittsburgh building Monday, sickening at least six people and forcing those inside to evacuate, police said.
Mary Siegert, 28, allegedly told police the canister of bear spray must have gone off by mistake.
University and city police responded to the Eureka Building on Forbes Avenue about 12:40 p.m. after some people inside had trouble breathing coupled with irritated eyes and coughing, according to a criminal complaint.
A witness told university police she saw a woman come into the building, ask someone several questions and then walk out, according to a criminal complaint filed against Siegert. The witness said the door opened moments later but no one came in. Minutes later, the people inside began experience symptoms similar to being pepper sprayed, the witness told police.
Security footage appeared to show Siegert leaving the building about the same time as people inside started feeling sick, according to the complaint. Continued camera footage appeared to show her run to Fifth Avenue, where she got on and off two Port Authority buses.
Police caught up with Siegert on Fifth Avenue near the Cathedral of Learning and searched her heavy winter coat, according to the complaint. Officers said they found a used can of Grizzly Tough Bear Spray Counter Assault hidden in the ripped lining of the jacket.
Officers handcuffed Siegert when she began to struggle with them, police said. They found an unused can of the same bear spray in Siegert’s backpack.
Siegert admitted to carrying the bear spray, but said it “periodically goes off or that she may have accidentally bumped the bear spray,” according to the complaint. Investigators noted no spray or residue on her clothing.
Two witnesses identified Siegert as the woman they’d seen in the Eureka Building just before their symptoms began.
Siegert of Pittsburgh is charged with six counts of simple assault and one count each of having an offensive weapon and risking a catastrophe, the latter of which is a felony.
She remained in the Allegheny County Jail on Tuesday unable to post bail. An attorney was not listed for her.