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Why charges were dropped against retired principal in Confederate pepper spray case

The Sons of Confederate Veterans were one of about 200 groups participating in the 2017 Soldiers Reunion parade. (WBTV) The Sons of Confederate Veterans were one of about 200 groups participating in the 2017 Soldiers Reunion parade. (WBTV)

CATAWBA COUNTY, NC (Joe Marusak/The Charlotte Observer) - Charges against a former high school principal accused of pepper spraying Confederate veteran re-enactors were dropped because of a lack of evidence and uncooperative victims, court records show.

Victims in the case against former Catawba County educator Karl Smith “have been uncooperative in that they have failed to return phone calls after repeated contacts by law enforcement,” prosecutor J. Kyle Smith said on a dismissal form filed in Catawba County District Court.

Prosecutors also had “insufficient evidence to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt,” although Newton Police “had probable cause to arrest this defendant,” Smith, a Catawba County assistant district attorney, wrote on the dismissal form. “This case is being dismissed in the best interests of justice.”

Karl Smith, 56, was accused of pepper spraying Confederate veteran re-enactors during the 2017 Soldiers Reunion parade in Newton in August.

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He was scheduled for trial last week on two counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of “failure to disclose to any law enforcement officer that the person holds a valid permit and is carrying a concealed handgun when approached or addressed by the officer.”

Two victims were treated at the scene for pepper spray exposure and then released, Newton police said at the time without identifying the victims.

Two parade participants notified police that a man armed with pepper spray was following the re-enactors, according to a police. Witnesses told police that when the re-enactors stopped to fire their weapons, the man discharged pepper spray at them.

Witnesses pointed out the man to police, who immediately took him into custody without incident.

Police seized a small canister of pepper spray and a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver from Smith. He had a concealed weapons permit for the gun, police said.

Karl Smith was a principal at two schools – first at East Burke High School and most recently at W.A. Young Elementary School – before he retired on June 30, schools spokeswoman Cheryl Shuffler said. He has not responded to several phone messages left at his home by the Observer since the incident.

He was reassigned to the bus garage after he retired as a principal and retired from the school system on Aug. 31, Shuffler said.

Newton Police Maj. Tim Hayes referred questions from the Observer last week to the district attorney’s office, saying police had no further comment on the case.

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