Fort Collins police on Saturday night used tear gas, pepper spray and exploding rubber balls to break up a riot near the CSU campus, sending hundreds of drunken, crying students back to their homes.
The riot took place in the densely populated Summerhill neighborhood, which is west of Shields Street and south of Prospect Road between Westbridge and Underhill drives. Fort Collins police said they shut down several parties earlier in the evening but were called back around 9 p.m. after neighbors complained about hundreds of partiers out in the street.
“We were going through telling people party’s over, time to go, and we got a lot of cooperation until … we shut the music off. That completely turned the crowd,” said Capt. Jerry Schiager. “They started chanting ‘f the police’ and basically pushed the cops back down the street.””We were going through telling people party’s over, time to go, and we got a lot of cooperation until … we shut the music off. That completely turned the crowd,” said Capt. Jerry Schiager. “They started chanting ‘f the police’ and basically pushed the cops back down the street.”
Schiager said officers withdrew to Prospect, donned riot gear and re-entered the neighborhood. First rolling exploding rubber balls at the crowd’s front row, and then firing pepper balls and setting off pepper spray and tear gas, officers eventually dispersed the crowd around 10:30 p.m. Officers reported having rocks and bottles thrown at them.
“It was a little scary, the aggressive nature of that core group,” Schiager said.
Partygoers leaving the area said the party had been advertised via Facebook all week long and drew hundreds of revelers who were drinking and chanting the CSU fight song as well as anti-University of Colorado slogans.
“My eyes are burning,” CSU student Karley Schafer said as she walked away. “It really hurts.”
Schafer and her friend said they were curious about the party, which they said was going strong when they arrived, shortly before police began firing tear gas.
Several other students who asked not to be identified described the party as out of control and “crazy,” with revelers climbing light poles and trees, and glass bottles flying. After police fired the tear gas, hundreds of students dispersed back into surrounding neighborhoods, many of them rubbing their eyes and complaining about what they saw as an overreaction of authorities.
Police left the neighborhood around midnight, leaving behind streets littered with broken glass bottles. Because the streets in the area are privately owned, the city won’t be clearing the mess left behind by revelers. Neighborhood residents walked the suddenly quiet streets, their shoes crunching on the glass, inspecting their cars for damage and recounting the incident.
Schiager said police will be reviewing video of the incident to see if they can identify the most aggressive members of the crowd, who could face charges of inciting a riot. That’s a criminal charge, but any CSU student convicted of that crime would also likely be expelled.