BELLINGHAM - Police used pepper spray to disperse hundreds of drunk, bottle-throwing college students who rioted late Saturday, Oct. 12, north of Western Washington University.
Bellingham Police broke up a block party around 9:30 p.m. Saturday at a Sehome neighborhood apartment complex in the 1200 block of Jersey Street, said Bellingham Police Lt. Mike Johnston.
A "parade of people" then made its way to the intersection of Indian and Laurel streets, drawing out college students from other parties in the area, said Sam Kaplan, a WWU sophomore who lives near the scene of the riot.
People gathered in Laurel Park started to throw beer bottles and cans at officers, Johnston said. Police called for backup.
While police waited for assistance, the crowd started to chant, disrobe and "streak," and vandalize traffic signs, Kaplan said.
Glass bottles, dishes, cinder blocks, lawn chairs and cans were thrown at officers, police cruisers, a city bus and other rioters, Johnston said.
Several officers received minor injuries from broken glass, according to a police press release.
Several vehicles were taken out of service with several thousand dollars in damage, according to a news release. A city bus and private property were also damaged by the thrown objects.
It was the rowdiest crowd that Bellingham Police Sgt. Mike Scanlon said he had seen in his more than 20 years in law enforcement.
Officers in an armored vehicle and riot gear used pepper balls, smoke and "flash-bang" devices to disperse the crowd of 300 to 400 that refused to leave the intersection, Johnston said.
Three arrests were made during the riot, Johnston said. None of those arrested were WWU students, said university spokesman Paul Cocke.
WWU President Bruce Shepard and student body president Carly Roberts released a joint statement thanking students who took part in the cleanup afterward, and warning those who may have participated in illegal behavior.
"Public safety officers will be reviewing surveillance videos and criminal charges may then follow," Shepard and Roberts wrote. "Should any of our students be found to have engaged in lawless and destructive behavior, they have no place at Western."
With the aid of social-networking sites and video taken at the scene, WWU and Bellingham Police expect to identify those who partook in criminal activity. Students could also face repercussions for violating the student conduct code, Cocke said.
"In this day in (sic) age of the abundance of social media, no one can partake in this type of violent behavior and remain anonymous," Bellingham Police Chief Cliff Cook said in a news release.
This school year the university will again work with the city to operate what students often call the "party bus," a mobile booking unit police use to conduct emphasis patrols, Cocke said. After obtaining a search warrant, police use the vehicle to make dozens of arrests and issue citations to underage drinkers at noisy parties. The two had already planned to run the unit this year before the weekend riot, Cocke said.
Police ask anyone who captured the events on digital media or may have any information to contact Bellingham Police Detective Gina Crosswhite at 360-778-8835 or WWU officer Jayson Christopherson at 360-650-3555.
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