About eight years ago Jody Allen Crowe, a former school principal, started thinking about ways to stop active shooters inside buildings. What he came up with was SentriZone, a system that douses the shooter with chemical irritant from a tank in the ceiling. Crowe built his company Crotega—a combination of his last name and a Latin word for “shield”—on SentriZone.
Now the company is marketing the irritant that comes out of the SentriZone as a less-lethal weapon for police. That irritant is not oleoresin capsicum. And it is not tear gas. Daniel Murphy, Crotega’s executive vice president for business development, says the company’s Repuls spray is a water-based food grade product that is very different from other police aerosols.
Murphy explains that the chemist who developed Repuls was actually working on a way to prevent mold from growing in animal feed when he developed the formula for Repuls, which means it had to be safe for livestock to consume. Its ability to temporarily incapacitate humans on contact with their eyes and skin was a secondary discovery.
In 2020 after watching police response to the George Floyd riots, Murphy approached Crowe with a plan to turn Repuls into a police tool. He says he knew officers needed a better chemical irritant spray. “In 20 years in law enforcement, I never once used my pepper spray,” he says. “All the cleanup, all the messy decontamination, all the stuff that went along with taking the person to the hospital, I didn’t want to deal with it. So I went right from verbal commands to hands on.”
Murphy says Repuls causes the effects law enforcement needs from a chemical irritant without the unwanted effects of other chemical sprays.
First, it doesn’t cause respiratory impact to the subject. “There’s not a police agency in America right now that wants somebody in custody screaming they can’t breathe,” Murphy says. “What our product does is cause involuntary closure of the eyes. I don’t care who you are or how tough you are, your eyes will close.” It also causes a burning sensation on the skin and a feeling of disorientation.
Second, it does not cause any long-term effects. Murphy says because Repuls was developed for the SentriZone school shooter response system, it was designed not to harm the sensitive eyes of six-year-olds.
Third, Repuls doesn’t affect anyone who wasn’t hit directly with the stuff, according to Murphy. “We have done testing, where I have sprayed a person in a crowded bus and no one else experienced discomfort. I’ve sprayed a person in the driver seat of a closed car without affecting the person in the passenger seat or the people in the backseat. I’ve even sprayed a subject, then wiped the liquid off of their face, and spread it on my own face, and I experienced no effect.”
Fourth, it can be deactivated with water. “Just wipe it off with water on the face and eyes. The return to normalcy is immediate. I mean in a minute or two minutes, the subject’s eyes are open and they are talking,” Murphy says.
Repuls is receiving positive response from law enforcement and corrections agencies. Murphy says it is now being used at some large agencies and being evaluated at others. Repuls is available in the standard chemical irritant spray sizes of MK3, MK4, and MK9, so that agencies do not have to change spray holsters, and it is priced comparable to OC.