A South Jersey crossing guard arrested at her post Wednesday morning for allegedly macing a man says she did it because she believes the man deals heroin and recently sold drugs that caused a loved one to overdose.
Amy Stanley, 35, of Pennsville, Salem County, told NBC10 that while driving through town Wednesday morning, she spotted a man she suspects sold heroin that nearly killed one of her family members recently.
Stanley said she pulled up next to the man, who was walking, and asked his name.
That's where Stanley's version of the events and the version provided by police differ. Stanley says the man then tried to reach into her passenger-side window, where she had her handbag sitting on the seat.
"When I asked him his name, he reached into my car, which was intimidating to me," Stanley said.
So she sprayed him with mace when she felt threatened, she said.
"My pocketbook was sitting on the passenger side. I carry mace for protection. He got maced," she said.
Pennsville police, though, said the man told them he reached toward Stanley after she reached out to him first, as if she intended to shake his hand.
It's not clear which version of the story is accurate. Stanley, who is now facing aggravated-assault and weapons possession charges, on top of a suspension without pay from her job as a crossing guard, said she plans to fight the accusations.
"This is not an innocent man walking the streets that got sprayed with mace. I've never been in trouble in my life. I work. I pay bills," Stanley said. "This is a guy that's making a living selling drugs [and is] basically OK with murdering people."
Stanley said she didn't go out looking for the man, but happened upon him at random.
Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings confirmed that a person in Stanley's immediate family did indeed recently suffer a serious overdose, and had to be revived using the opiate antidote Narcan.
But, Cummings said, police can't prove solely based on Stanley's assertion that the man she maced is indeed the same man who sold the drugs that caused the OD.
"Obviously that's not the proper way to handle it," Cummings said of the alleged macing. "We really can't prove anything that he sold it. We can't just go knock on this guy's door and say, 'Where's the heroin?'"
Cummings said it would help the police if Stanley's family member who suffered the overdose would be willing to come forward and identify the man as the person who sold the heroin. Until then, though, there's no probable cause, he said.
Stanley said her family member is in treatment now after the overdose.
She said she's never had a brush with the law before in her life, pointing out that as a crossing guard, she is technically employed by the police department.
"I would never get into the police department if I had anything on my record," Stanley said. "I just hate for my name to be thrown out there like this was an innocent person. I'm a good, hardworking person who owns a home in this town and pays my bills and works every day."
NBC10 earlier this year aired and published an exclusive special report on the heroin and opioid epidemic in the Philadelphia area and beyond. Explore the special report, Generation Addicted, here.