Police will look for evidence of crimes in Fort Collins block party video

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Fort Collins police say they will be reviewing video as part of the investigation into a massive Saturday night block party and the police response.

The party was centered at Prospect Road and Westbridge Drive, in the Summerhill neighborhood, a few blocks from the Colorado State University campus.

There were actually three parties scheduled for that area Saturday night, according to CSU's party registration program. One of them estimated 400 people would be in attendance.

Videos posted on social media show several hundred partying students filling the street, on cars and even sitting on rooftops.

By the end of the night, officers were ordered to use tear gas and pepper spray to break up the rowdy crowd.

Asked if the registered parties might have been a sign of a coming problem, CSU said they assume the attendees are adults. CSU's dean of students, Jody Donovan, said about 98 percent of registered parties don't have problems.

"There are certainly ways where a 400 person party could be held in a way that's okay," said spokesperson Mike Hooker.

"As it unfolds, we'll be looking at the video and making a determination if--based on that video or based on info we get from other sources--if there's anybody that committed an act that would rise to the level of a criminal violation," said Fort Collins Police Chief John Hutto, who responded with his officers to the party that night.

Donovan said her office is also reviewing videos, talking to students and working with police.

"We will hold students accountable," if they violated the school's code of conduct, she said.

 

-- Saturday night --

Hutto said neighbors initially complained about the large crowds of approximately 100 people gathered in the street.

"By protocol, we started making the calls to those [registered] parties in order to put them on notice that we were receiving complaints," Hutto said.

Hutto said that one of the residents who had a registered party asked police to come to the area. That person said their party had broken up, but the number of people outside continued to grow.

According to Hutto, the party that had started around 8 p.m. grew into a crowd of about 300 by about 10 p.m. There were 20 officers on the scene.

"We began to get more calls that, in reality, the party in the street was growing," Hutto said. "We were beginning to get reports of property damage."

Officers were sent into the crowd for a second time. Hutto said they were encouraging people to clear the street, but were beginning to recognize some anti-police sentiment.

"We were starting to see a few rocks and bottles headed our direction," the police chief said. "There was a central core of people partying in the street with some loud music, so as we went into the crowd to turn that music off so we could make announcements to start to clear the crowd, that's when the event really turned."

"There were people there saying they hated police," said Darin Hinman, who was there reporting for the university's newspaper.  Hinman said some partygoers went from asking officers "to go smoke pot with them because it's legal now" to yelling "screw you officer."

The officers were pulled out of the crowd at 10:30 p.m., but Hutto said the unruliness continued.

"There was a lot more property damage beginning to occur so the decision was made based on the resources we had available that we needed to use some tear gas and pepper spray to clear the area," he said.

7NEWS asked CSU about a similar party situation last year at Rams Pointe.

"They had university hearings and those students who were found responsible for their part in that situation where held accountable," Donovan said.

CSU declined to give specifics on how many students were punished for that party.

The dean sent an email to students Monday reiterating the severity of the situation Saturday. Part of that email is below:

The university is taking this incident very seriously and will cooperate fully with the ongoing police investigation. Students who are found to be involved in rioting behavior will be held accountable - through the legal system, the student conduct system, or both. The university fully supports police efforts to identify responsible individuals.

The Student Code of Conduct and Colorado law are both very clear about riotous behavior. The university's Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct Services, which is the student conduct branch of the university, will work with Fort Collins Police Services. Students found to have violated the Student Code of Conduct can face university consequences, even if they don't face criminal charges.

Under Colorado law, students who are convicted of a riot offense shall be immediately suspended from the university for 12 months and also are prohibited from registering at any Colorado state-supported college or university for a full year. Even "just watching" at an out-of-control event can get you into trouble because it can thwart police and EMT efforts to get the incident under control and keep people safe. If you are there, you are part of the problem.

In addition to the legal consequences, the university's Student Code of Conduct strictly prohibits aiding, abetting, encouraging, participating in or inciting a riot, as well as failing to disperse at the direct request of police or university officials.