A Pennsylvania man arrested twice for disorderly conduct on April Fools’ Day was freed for only minutes when he caused the Atlantic City Public Safety Building to be evacuated, police said.
Thomas McHugh, 29, of Drexel Hill, Pa., was released from the jail in the building that houses the Police Department and Municipal Court at 8 a.m., Sgt. Monica McMenamin said.
At 8:10 a.m., he was seen on the fourth floor — which is restricted to administration only — and was confronted by officers.
When questioned, McHugh “reportedly rambled on making incoherent statements,” McMenamin said.
He then grabbed the fire extinguisher mounted on the wall and sprayed the officers. The hallway filled with the powder, making it difficult for officers to see, McMenamin said.
Lt. Lee Hendricks, Sgt. David Madamba and Detective Steve Randall were sprayed in the face while taking McHugh into custody, she said.
He was taken to the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center for treatment and psychiatric evaluation, she said. He remained hospitalized late Tuesday.
The building was evacuated at 8:12 a.m. Traffic was shut down in both directions on Atlantic Avenue.
Those affected got oxygen, and their eyes were flushed with water, McMenamin said. A total of 16 people, including McHugh, were sent to area hospitals: 14 to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s City Campus and two to the hospital’s Mainland Campus.
All were released except one civilian employee who was admitted because of complications, a family member said.
Municipal Court was canceled. Those who had dates will receive new notifications, Judge Bruce Ward said.
Business Administrator Ron Cash ordered civilian employees sent home for the day.
A cleaning crew was on the scene. The agent is listed as nontoxic, McMenamin said. The HVAC system was shut off to prevent further circulation of the irritant.
McHugh had been arrested twice on Monday. The first time was at 6:12 p.m. on North Carolina Avenue, when he was accused of chasing and scaring kids. He was charged with disorderly conduct and released on a summons at 9 p.m.
Then, at 11:13 p.m., he was arrested again for theft and disorderly conduct, accused of stealing items from a convenience store at Albany and Ventnor avenues, which he fled. He was released at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
McHugh was charged with three counts of aggravated assault on police, resisting arrest, possession of a destructive device, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal mischief. His bail was set at $100,000.
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Follow Lynda Cohen on Twitter @LyndaCohen