Investigation, party crackdown continues after Bellingham riot

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 29, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - As the investigation continues into the Oct. 12 riot that brought national attention to Bellingham and Western Washington University, some of those involved are facing criminal charges, evictions and suspension.

The riot broke out after Bellingham police officers broke up a party at an apartment complex in the 1200 block of Jersey Street, as partiers made their way to the intersection of Indian and Laurel streets, drawing people from nearby parties as they went.

Hundreds gathered and began throwing beer bottles, cans, lawn chairs, plates and rocks at patrol cars. Police responded in riot gear, using pepper balls, smoke and "flash-bang" devices to disperse the unruly crowd.

Mayor Kelli Linville estimated the riot cost at about $20,000, including personnel costs for responding officers.

Damage to police cars totaled about $5,130, in addition to $100 to replace tires and tubes on a police bike and nearly $270 to replace street signs ripped out by the crowd, Sgt. Jason Monson said.

Eleven people have been arrested so far, facing charges that include malicious mischief, failure to disperse and rioting while armed.

Among those arrested are two WWU students. One has been suspended and the other is going through the university's discipline process. University spokesman Paul Cocke said WWU policy prevents him from commenting on the length of the student's suspension.

Some renters at the apartment complex where the party began before the riot may find themselves getting eviction notices soon, said Mike Hays, owner of Hammer Properties, which manages the apartments. He said that he's been working with police and looking at pictures from the night of the riot, and he's reached out to every tenant in the building asking them if they participated in the block party and what their role was. He said he anticipated that evictions would take place, though he didn't want to say specifically when that might happen.

"We're just making sure everything is done right, not rushing to judgment," he said, "trying to do a thorough investigation of the facts and trying to go from there."

As a result of the riot, police have been cracking down on parties near campus. On Saturday night, Nov. 23, police broke up a rowdy party in the 600 block of East Myrtle Street - less than a block from the scene of the riot - where neighbors had been complaining of people urinating outside, yelling and running around in a yard strewn with beer bottles.

The five people accused of hosting the party are WWU students and each was briefly arrested for furnishing liquor to minors, disorderly conduct and obstructing, after they allegedly lied about living in the house, gave fake names and tried to avoid officers, according to police. Twenty-five other minors were cited for possessing or drinking alcohol.

The university's response to off-campus conduct depends on the extent and type of violations, Cocke said, and it was too soon to know what any response might be for the students who threw that party.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Dispatcher Blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher or follow us on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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