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Morgantown Police chief anticipates six more “snow day riot” arrests

Six more arrests are anticipated in connection to the Feb. 1 “snow day riots” at WVU, which would follow 11 arrests announced Wednesday.

Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston spoke Thursday on MetroNews’ “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval. He said the additional charges might be more minor than those brought Wednesday, but they are similar to other charges brought against the students involved.

On the third consecutive day of cancelled classes — Jan. 30 and 31 and Feb. 1 — a significant number of people, including WVU students, gathered on North Spruce Street in Morgantown, close to the WVU campus. According to police, the crowd refused to allow city employees to plow the street following a day of heavy snow. Students and others had reportedly been sledding, drinking and enjoying the unexpected and lengthy break from classes.
Police arrived to attempt to clear the students away so plow trucks could get through and, Preston said, some in the crowd began throwing items at officers and city employees.

Eight of the 11 charged Wednesday are members of the Gamma Pi Chapter of Sigma Nu, according to city officials.
Only one charged Wednesday is not a WVU student.

“Some of these individuals could be looking at losing their potential education,” Preston said Thursday. “They could be kicked out of school. There’s a double hammer here on some of these folks, as well as any sanctions related to the fraternities themselves because of the Interfraternity Council.”
According to a WVU spokesperson in an e-mail exchange with MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM, neither chapter is being investigated in terms of the student conduct process “due to the actions of a few of their members.”
Preston disputed the notion that his officers acted improperly. There was criticism of the response after one video appeared to show a Morgantown officer firing a pepper ball directly into a crowd, but Preston said that was inaccurate.

“We extensively went through every single bodycam footage that we had,” he said. “We went through every available social media video that we had. And many of the social media videos we had were doctored. Some of them, by the angle, appeared to be one thing, but when you look at another one of the exact same incident, you can see other things.”
The brunt of the work, Preston said, is done. Investigators are continuing to identify those involved in the riot that occurred in a law enforcement cooperative zone.

“I anticipate those charges to trickle in,” he said. “I don’t see us taking a big group of folks in. Our objective was to go after the most egregious of the people doing things: throwing, setting stuff on fire or being straight up confrontational with the police, trying to incite a riot or trying to engage the crowd into more activities.”
A WVU spokeswoman said the students involved may also face discipline under the Student Conduct Code once the criminal charges are resolved.
It is unclear if individual fraternity chapters are taking any actions against the members involved in the incident.