MORGANTOWN — Police dispersed hundreds of students without any arrests after a snow-day block party turned into “a dangerous situation.”
“It’s a snow day; it’s a great day,” said Caroline McCarthy. “Every time school is canceled everyone knows to come to Spruce Street. Spruce Street’s where it’s at.”
WVU canceled classes Friday for the third straight day.
Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston said the difference between a party and a riot is criminal activity. Friday’s party turned to a riot after a snowplow and officers attempting to help it through the crowd had bottles and other debris thrown at them, Preston said.
“It became a dangerous situation,” he said.
The crowd was dispersed using a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) and two smoke grenades, Preston said.
McCarthy said she and other students were expecting to be tear gassed.
A video showing compressed-air powered guns being shot into the crowd has been viewed almost 150,000 times. It is not clear which department is firing into the crowd. WVU Police Department, MPD and the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department were on scene.
Zachary Haines said he was hit in the face by “whatever they were shooting out of those guns.”
“The police wanna come up and I’m just standing on the porch and next thing I know I just get shot by them,” Haines said.
“It’s possible, you’re in a riot situation so depending on what’s going on,” WVU Police Chief W. P. Chedester, said.
He said officers are supposed to aim low, avoiding the head so the ammo properly disperses.
Both chiefs said all officers involved will file reports and any actions taken will be reviewed.
“It is unfortunate that what began today on Spruce Street as a playful time in the snow, turned into a dangerous and threatening situation for students and law enforcement officers alike,” a WVU statement about the incident stated.
The statement also added that university officials will review footage to see if any charges need to be filed.
Law enforcement’s first attempt to disperse the crowd with the LRAD only seemed to excite the crowd and a fire was started on the street.
The second LRAD use sent roughly half the crowd towards the Mountainlair and shortly after the two smoke canisters were fired. After the smoke cleared, almost no one remained in the street.
WVU’s full statement on the incident:
“It is unfortunate that what began today on Spruce Street as a playful time in the snow, turned into a dangerous and threatening situation for students and law enforcement officers alike.
“The escalation apparently began when the several hundred students and others who had gathered refused reasonable instructions to disperse and began tossing glass bottles and other debris toward officers, resulting in law enforcement taking action.
“University officials will review videos of the situation to determine if any charges should be filed.
“We remind our students that our actions should represent our Mountaineer values. Behave responsibly, be accountable and please comply with police, who want to keep our campus, city and all of our first responders safe through this weather.”