East St. Paul resident smells 'peppers,' calls police, because... um...

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Spicy peppers: Still legal in this state... though someone in St. Paul might wish otherwise. Pic Basement/Flickr

You know that moment when you're laying in bed very late at night and you suddenly smell spicy peppers, and you think, "Is this even legal?" 

No? Well someone in St. Paul does, and felt so threatened by the experience he or she decided to take the issue up with the authorities. Specifically, the St. Paul Police Department, which dutifully responded to the call at 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning. 

The incident -- if it even deserves that noun -- was first noticed by Star Tribune reporter Chao Xiong, who tweeted out the (very!) short write-up it received from responding officers.

Because City Pages is a serious news-gathering institution which recognizes its obligation to the public, we could not let the story die there.

What kind of peppers we talking about? Like, some drunk kitchen daredevil's face-melting ghost peppeers, their venomous smoke curling through the vents into someone's apartment bedroom? 

Or is this just one of those people who thinks green bell peppers are a bad pizza topping, and anyone who orders them should be thrown in jail?

Is this person related to the Edina 911 caller who thought they'd die if they didn't have cheese for their lasagna?

We followed up with the St. Paul Police Department, and spokesman Sgt. Mike Ernster filled us in with what few additional details were available. The call came from the Payne/Arcade neighborhood on the city's Eastside, and the person involved blamed his or her neighbor for producing the smell.

That smell, Ernster says, was "a strong smell of peppers... that was making it difficult to breathe." 

Serious heat-loving home cooks will tell you this is not entirely implausible. When chili peppers are getting fried or roasted (even just chopped up, in large quantities), a lot of recipes give some variation of the warning to "consider a mask, fan, or open windows" to avoid "vapors that can cause a burning sensation in your eyes and throat."

So, maybe this was that? Except:

"When the officer arrived," Sgt. Ernster continued, "they did not detect any odors even though the caller was claiming to still smell them."

Hmmm. A mystery indeed. Maybe this caller just has an exceptional sense of smell. Oh, maybe it was a dog! A beagle!

As Xiong's tweet notes, no arrests were made stemming from this incident, meaning the Great Pepper Caper of East St. Paul remains unsolved, and incomplete. If you know more about this madcap life-and-death story, do us all a favor: Don't call the cops. They're busy.


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