SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – It’s the video that’s been viewed and shared thousands of times: A local restaurant owner spraying a cigarette smoker in the face with a fire extinguisher.
One week after the incident, the man and his attorneys said in a press conference that they will pursue legal action.
Jon Bird said he and his girlfriend, Elaina Henderlite were volunteering with the Utah Arts Alliance last Friday near the Gallivan Plaza. During a smoke break, he said restaurant owner Alex Jamison approached him with concerns about where they were smoking.
Bird claimed they apologized and moved further away. According to Utah law, smoking must take place at least 25 feet away from building entrances, exits, air intakes, and windows.
“We were stationed at a reasonable distance from any of the entrances of the businesses to the corridor where we were serving,” he said.
But Jamison returned, according to Bird, with a fire extinguisher in hand this time.
“He informed us that he was not going to tolerate any further smoking by me at that location,” he said.
Henderlite pulled out her phone and began recording the confrontation, asking “Are you really going to spray him with a fire extinguisher?” in the video seconds before Jamison deployed the device in Bird’s face.
“Very shocking. Who in the right mind is going to spray deadly chemicals in another man’s face a foot away that comes out at 195 PSI?” said Bird. “Since that moment, I’ve been experiencing serious health issues. I have sought medical treatment and will continue to do so until all symptoms from this incident have been resolved.”
Bird said his symptoms have included headaches, coughing, sore throat, irregular heart patterns, tingling throughout the body, and fatigue. He also said he performs as a fire-breather and is concerned he might not be able to do that anymore.
“It’s not just white powder that magically puts out a fire. They put certain chemicals in there for a reason. One of them is to suck the oxygen out of the fire. So potentially putting that into my lungs is suffocating them and sucking my oxygen as a human,” he said.
Friday afternoon, Bird and his attorney, Christian Burridge with Pearson Butler told media in a press conference that they would be filing a lawsuit for civil assault and battery.
“We believe under the law that this is clearly outrageous conduct. It needs to be investigated further, that the liability issues here are something that Mr. Bird needs to pursue and has his justice given to him,” said Burridge.
Bird said he’s taking legal action to prevent this from happening again to someone else.
“Treat someone as you want to be treated. Be kinder than you need to be, always. You want to matter, you want respect, give it. I was tired of being bullied. I was tired of being pushed around. I stood up for my rights,” he said.
Jamison didn’t return text messages from ABC4 News for comment Friday. But earlier in the week, he wrote a lengthy post on Facebook apologizing for his actions and explaining his side of the story, that has since been taken down.
“Was my behavior on Friday the right way to handle the situation? Of course not. Am I sorry? Absolutely. 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.”– Alex Jamison via Facebook (post has since been deleted)
He had also written that he previously asked Bird to walk 30 feet south to the designated smoking area.
“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. With friends hanging out, not working, also smoking. […] Was my escalation warranted? Stepping out with the extinguisher was sure to send the message though. Who in their right mind would continue to smoke with a warning like that? I was defending my lungs. My customers’ lungs. My neighbors’ customers. The dry grasses right next to him. The building. The street from litter.”– Alex Jamison via Facebook (post has since been deleted)
Burridge and Bird declined to comment on Jamison’s post. They said they plan to officially file their lawsuit in their next few weeks.
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