Jon Bird, who was hit with the chemical stream on Friday, Sept. 20, near the Gallivan Center in Salt Lake City, posted footage of the incident on Facebook, claiming the man wielding the fire extinguisher “assaulted me and ran from the scene before the cops showed up.”
Alex Jamison, who has divested his stake in three restaurants following the incident, both apologized and defended his actions. He said in a statement that while he overreacted, Bird had refused multiple requests to smoke at a designated smoking area and had blown smoke into his face.
“Never have I received the smug refusal that I got on Friday. Never have I had someone continue to blow smoke in my face, to give excuses as to why they’ve got the right to smoke on private property that isn’t theirs,” Jamison said.
“I was defending my lungs. My customers’ lungs. My neighbors’ customers. The dry grasses right next to him. The building. The street from litter. And he continued to challenge me, to provoke.”
Bird told KUTV that the incident was preceded by an exchange between him and the restaurant owner about whether Bird was within his rights to light up at that specific location.
After allegedly apologizing to Jamison and moving further away with his cigarette, Bird said he struck a conciliatory note and even “tried to give him a high five.”
Bird said that when he went further away to have a smoke, Jamison confronted him again.
“He came out looking for a fight,” Bird told KUTV.
“What nobody saw was the previous interactions,” Jamison said, “prior requests to stop chain smoking in front of our patio, to please walk 30 feet south to the “Designated Smoking Area” as coined by the large sign on the wall, complete with tables, chairs, and ash trays. The cigarette butts. He was there all day, same spot, working with the event on the plaza above. That was his station, and therefore his property. Nobody saw the entitlement in this man challenging me.”
In the video, Jamison is seen arguing with Bird, claiming that he was smoking within 25 feet of his business and that this was against the law.
According to the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act, it is illegal to smoke within 25 feet of building entrances, exits, air intakes, or windows.
Jamison demanded Bird put out his cigarette.
“Are you really going to spray him with a fire extinguisher?” the female voice can be heard in the recording.
“I’m going to put that cigarette out,” Jamison responded. “You can’t smoke right here.”
Bird then put what appeared to be a lit cigarette in his mouth and said: “Do it.”
Jamison then directed a white chemical stream from the fire extinguisher towards Bird, hitting him in face.
“I’m having a hard time breathing, my eyes [are] painful, headaches, all sorts of stuff I’m feeling that I didn’t feel before,” Bird told KUTV.
Jamison admitted he overreacted, saying, “Was my behavior on Friday the right way to handle the situation? Of course not. Am I sorry? Absolutely.”
He said he didn’t intend to cause any injury, but that he believes he was justified in confronting Bird.
“Did I mean to cause that man harm or pain? Definitely not. Does he deserve compassion? I’d love to give it to him. But I’m done groveling. I can be wrong, admit I was wrong, and still defend myself. It was small minded thinking on both of our parts and we both need to own it.”
Sgt. Keith Horrocks viewed the video and told KUTV that based on the evidence, Jamison may face an assault charge.
“What we would’ve preferred to have happened is to have police called initially for the smoking so we can go out and address whatever that may be,” Horrocks told the station.
“What nobody saw was the continued debate afterward, him still sucking on that thing, mocking me and saying, ‘You missed.’ So you want to call it assault? Go for it. Words have no meanings anymore, crossing the street can be a crime. I call it self defense, protecting my air, the duty to protect my customers,” Jamison said.
He added, “again I am sorry to everyone who was affected by my actions, starting with Jon, and to all of you who felt this hatred towards me.”
The Salt Lake City Police Department continues to investigate.