SIERRA VISTA — The man accused of pepper spraying a counterprotester at a Black Lives Matter demonstration last fall will be facing trial, court officials said Wednesday.
Don James Fruhwirth, dressed at the protest in a full mask, a headscarf and a Hawaiian shirt complimented by a vest that had weapons dangling from it, was captured on video blasting pepper spray twice into the face of Hereford resident Cathy Tashman. The assault occurred at a demonstration at the corner of State Routes 90 and 92 in September.
Fruhwirth was acting as security for a Black Lives Matter group and Tashman was across the street in a counterprotest organized by Concerned Citizens of Cochise County. At one point, Tashman left her group, got into her sport utility vehicle and drove over to the BLM protesters across the street. She stopped her SUV in front of the demonstrators, blocking traffic on SR92, police said.
Video shows Fruhwirth and others racing to Tashman’s vehicle and stopping at the passenger-side window. Fruhwirth and another man assigned to the security detail yelled at Tashman to leave. Then they told her she was “under arrest.”
Tashman got out of her car and began waving her arms and laughing. At one point, she advanced toward Fruhwirth and that’s when he sprayed her the first time. Tashman started waving her arms and she went toward Fruhwirth again, her right arm swatting at him. It’s unclear whether she hit him because it’s not shown in the video. Fruhwirth is then seen delivering a second blast of the spray into Tashman’s face.
Tashman was charged with obstructing traffic, but Fruhwirth, 26, also of Hereford, was charged with two counts of assault.
In Sierra Vista Justice Court Wednesday morning Fruhwirth’s attorney, Nancy Bourke, and assistant prosecutor Rachel Raynes both told Justice of the Peace Kenneth Curfman there had been ongoing negotiations to settle the case, but Fruhwirth and his attorney rejected a recent plea offer.
Raynes told Curfman she anticipated a half-day trial, but Bourke said she needed two days. Curfman decided on a one-day trial that’s slated for March 5.
According to state statutes, assault is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.