Bear spray victim speaks out, suspect comes forward
MISSOULA, Mont. - A Missoula woman claiming a man sprayed her and her dog with bear spray over the weekend is speaking out. Tuesday afternoon the man accused of spraying her in the face came forward and gave a statement to police, claiming he sprayed in self defense. On Saturday Missoula resident Shena Roath was walking with her dog up in the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area southeast of Missoula. Roath had her golden retriever, Homie, unleashed in an area where dogs are allowed to be off-leash, according to Animal Control. The dog approached the man, who reportedly sprayed the dog with bear spray. Roath says she ran over to the man to stop him and threatened to call police. She says that's when the man turned and sprayed her in the face. "He turned towards me and so I thought he was coming at me and I kind of put my hands up," she tells us. "I mean he was very close and just sprayed me in the face with his bear spray." Roath tells us she called for help as her eyes began to swell shut. People in the area called police and she was taken to St. Patrick Hospital for treatment. Roath tells us she did not deserve to be sprayed in the face simply because she had her dog off-leash; she adds that getting sprayed in the face with bear spray was the most painful thing she's ever experienced. She says she understands some people are scared of dogs, but she never thought a walk in Pattee Canyon with her dog would land her in the hospital with her eyes swollen shut. "He just turned around and walked away like nothing had happened and so I was alone in the woods and I couldn't see anything," she tells NBC Montana. "I was just screaming 'Help me, help me, somebody please help me.'" Police tell us the man came forward Tuesday afternoon and gave a statement to detectives. He told them he has a serious phobia of dogs and always carries bear spray to protect himself, but that he never intentionally sprayed Shena in the face. He claims he was only trying to spray the dog for a second time, to keep him away. Shena says the man sprayed her in the face on purpose. "He intentionally held that bear spray in my face and pulled the trigger, there's no way it was accidental," says Roath. "There's just no way because he pulled it out of the holster and held it to my face." Now the case is sitting on the desk of the Missoula county prosecutor, waiting for review. The man may face an assault charge, however authorities tell NBC Montana it could be weeks before the county prosecutor looks at the case.