Deputies arrest Westwood man after pepper spray prompts apartment evacuation

A man was arrested after several residents feared they were poisoned at their apartment building Monday.

Lassen County Sheriff’s deputies arrested John Hussain, 52, of Westwood, Monday, Feb. 10, after reports of a potential poisoning was reported to the department, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office. The investigation determined the chemical source was pepper spray.

At about 8:42 a.m., the dispatch center received five 911 calls from residents of the 220 Cedar Street apartment building in Westwood who said they believed they were sprayed with some kind of poison.

Deputies from the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call along with a California Highway Patrol officer. Deputies initially cleared the building to ensure there were no additional victims, and the deputies noticed a foul smell while inside the apartment building. The deputies evacuated the apartment building and requested a HAZMAT team.

The apartment building consists of two stories, with 13 tenants, including six children, according to the sheriff’s office. Nine of the tenants evacuated the building and sought medical treatment and evaluation.

Members from Lassen County Emergency Services, Westwood Fire, Cal Fire, Susanville Fire, and OES HAZMAT unit HM32 responded to assess the situation. The team members utilized a multi-gas detector and a photoionization detector (PID) to test the air quality. The team also utilized PH and M8 chemical detection paper. There were no deviation in the monitors and the building was declared safe to enter.

“Deputies were unable to locate the source of the chemical agent. Due to conflicting stories, Lassen County Sheriff’s Detectives obtained a search warrant for two apartments in the building,” read the statement. “A search was conducted of one apartment and the source was located. The chemical source was determined to be oleoresin capsicum (pepper spray).”

Through the investigation, deputies arrested Hussain and he was booked into the Lassen County Jail for one felony count of 22810(a) PC (felon in possession of tear gas) and one felony count of 22810(g) PC (use of tear gas except in self-defense). Bail was set at $30,000 and the case was submitted to the Lassen County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.