Police use tear gas to disperse crowd of 400 near University campus
A large street party became a violent confrontation between several hundred students and local law enforcement agencies Friday night.
Eugene Police Department “party patrols” responded to the intersection of 13th Avenue and Ferry Street at 11:21 p.m. where approximately 400 individuals were gathered.
The latest EPD reports mentioned nine individuals arrested in relation to the event. Police responded to the scene by launching four tear gas canisters and Lane County Sheriff deputies discharged one non-lethal rubber pellet round.
Police press releases disclosed that at least nine individuals, all of whom were in their late teens and early twenties, were arrested and taken into custody in relation with Friday’s incident. According to official EPD press releases, two individuals were arrested in direct connection to the initial clashes with police following the use of tear gas.
Odin VanNorman Erickson, 24, was arrested on charges of riot, interfering with police, third degree criminal mischief and possession of a small amount of marijuana.
Derek Ryan Brown, 19, was arrested for disorderly conduct and being a minor in possession of alcohol.
The Emerald has noted several inconsistencies in charges and proper name spellings within the official reports released to the media on behalf of the EPD.
Police believe the gathering may have been associated with a Facebook event entitled “Freshman Disorientation,” which consisted largely of college-aged individuals. EPD representatives stressed that they neither could confirm nor wished to identify all individuals in the gathering as being college students.
There are conflicting reports as to whether or not the first law enforcement vehicles on the scene were directed to the area by neighbors making noise complaints, or if routine EPD “party patrols” came upon the gathering by happenstance.
Because of what the initial reporting officers identified as the size and “intense” nature of the crowd, all available police resources, including the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, Springfield Police Department and Oregon State Police, were called to the scene.
Approximately 50 law enforcement officers, some equipped in riot gear and body armor, had gathered at the intersection slightly before midnight. A YouTube video was shortly posted after the incident, showing the use of tear gas by law enforcement officials.
EPD Lt. Sam Kamkar, the official incident commander of the police response to the gathering, said that law enforcement used tear gas after the crowd would not disperse after being repeatedly asked to by law enforcement officers. Kamkar defended the use of the gas stating that some in the crowd started throwing glass bottles at the officers.
“It was extremely effective, that tear gas,” Kamkar said.
No injuries directly related to the incident have been reported from any of the individuals in the gathering, or by members of law enforcement agencies involved.
After a large show of force, and conducting crowd dispersing maneuvers and sweeps throughout the West University Neighborhood, law enforcement began to withdraw at about 2:00 a.m.
University political science senior Colin Larlee, who was at the scene, said that he believes the initial site of the gathering was located closer to the intersection of 14th Avenue and Ferry Street, and that the source of the gathering was multiple house parties that started to intermingle on the street. Some of the individuals in the crowd started pulling up street signs and walking off with them, and the police responded shortly afterward. Larlee said that he heard the sound of breaking glass, but did not see bottles being thrown directly at police immediately before the tear gas was deployed, at which point he himself fled the scene.
“It was definitely out of control, and I’m not surprised by what happened with the police,” Larlee said. However, he later added that he felt the police response was heavy-handed.
“This wasn’t a real riot, people are calling it that, but it wasn’t that rowdy. People weren’t trying to start a ruckus with police.”
ASUO President Amelie Rousseau condemned EPD’s response to the event, and said she believes that the use of weapons against students was an uncalled-for escalation of force, and identified it as “crude and disproportionate.” She also said that she believed the incident has affected her views on whether or not DPS should adopt a sworn and armed police force pending the passage of state legislation.
“I think this should make all students and the University administration think twice about bringing this type of intimidation on to campus.” Rousseau said, “This is exactly why we don’t want a police force on our campus.”
DPS was not involved with Friday’s incident.
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