He looked like an upwardly-mobile metrosexual who'd just come to Saturday's demonstration to check out the scene. Smelling of cologne and wearing an impeccably clean puffy coat, he didn't quite fit in with the colorful patchwork of semi-washed peaceniks who had assembled on the Pentagon bridge overlooking the rally.
When the man approached me, I was standing directly in front of the row of riot police closing the bridge to foot traffic, who had 30 minutes before arrested five demonstrators for refusing orders to move.
"Why do they have the bridge closed off?," he asked me.
"I guess they don't want people going that way," I responded.
"Isn't this a public sidewalk? How am I supposed to get to the metro?," he replied.
Moments later, the frontline officer jostled me with his shield to get me moving as the riot police began shuffling forward.
As I shot pictures of the row of riot shields in motion, I could hear the man behind me trying to ask the police the same questions. A few seconds later, I heard a yelp of pain. A Virginia State Police officer had sprayed a stream of liquid cayenne pepper into his eyes.
I turned and began shooting the scene as the rest of the incident unfolded.
The man was wobbling around trying desperately to rub the pepper out of his eyes and pleading repeatedly in a shrill and confused whine, "Why did you do that? Why did you have to spray me?"
He was cut off mid-sentence with a second shot of pepper spray, captured in the below photo. While the stream of liquid isn't visible, the officer's canister can be seen behind his shield in an upright position and pointed at the man.
After the second shot, I directed my camera at the officer who had released the pepper spray, snapping away while asking for his name and badge number. Rather than answer me, he turned his canister in my direction and prepared to use it again.
I closed my eyes, shouted that I was media, and kept shooting. When I re-opened them, the officer had lowered the pepper spray and turned his face away from me.
The announcement of a media presence seemed to defuse the situation, as a group of protestors hurried the injured man off to flush out his eyes, and the police re-assumed their previous stone-faced and motionless show of force.
According to Virginia State Police spokesperson, Sgt. Terry Licklider, officers "did not use any type of pepper spray" at the rally on Saturday.
When I pressed the issue, telling him I had witnessed the incident, Licklider said that he had spoken Monday morning to one of the two VA State Police sergeants who had been in charge Saturday, Sgt. John Bishop, who reported that they had not had any incidents of pepper spray use.
Further, Linklider told me, it would have been a violation of police regulations for the officer to refuse to give his name or badge number upon request.
It remains to be seen if they will adjust their official account of events on Saturday upon the publication of these photos.