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Playful university snow day turns into ‘all out war’ between cops and disrespectful students

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A “playful” snow day at West Virginia University soon devolved into a “dangerous and threatening” confrontation that involved riot police and pepper spray.

With classes canceled since Wednesday due to extreme weather conditions brought on by a polar vortex descending on portions of the nation, students at West Virginia University took to the outdoors Friday to snowboard, sled and do some daytime drinking, according to KDKA-TV.

But, according to University officials, the “playful time in the snow” Friday afternoon soon escalated into what police later called a “riot,” with fires, smoke grenades and students hurling glass bottles.

“It is unfortunate that what began today on Spruce Street as a playful time in the snow, turned into a dangerous and threatening situation for students and law enforcement officers alike,” university officials said in a statement.

Hundreds of students were asked to clear the way so snow plows and salt trucks could get through the streets they were blocking, as Morgantown Police officers gave the plows an escort. But the students allegedly began throwing bottles and rocks at the plows and police who went behind the snow plow to provide cover.

“We had winter sports activities that turned into criminal behavior and violence,” Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston told student newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum. “They started attacking city workers as they plowed the streets.

According to KDKA:

Police say three officers deployed pepper ball munitions, targeting the building above the people throwing projectiles so the balls would disintegrate on the building and the powder would fall onto the crowd. They say the officers were trying to cover the retreat of other workers and officers in the area.

According to police, the incident was declared a riot around 3:50 p.m. and officers ordered the crowd to disperse.

 

Students failed to heed multiple warnings to disperse, leading police to employ a “Long-Range Acoustic Device,” described as a loud speaker that emits a “steady annoying noise.” Although some students allegedly responded by setting debris and furniture on fire. many others did leave the area.

No arrests were made and there were no reported injuries but university officials are reviewing the incident.

“The escalation apparently began when the several hundred students and others who had gathered refused reasonable instructions to disperse…resulting in law enforcement taking action,” WVU communications director April Kaull said. “University officials will review videos of the situation to determine if any charges should be filed.”

“We’ll work with University Police and other authorities and we’ll look at all the video and see what we can identify, and absolutely if they’re WVU students, then we’ll run them through our student conduct process and certainly there could be charges that are forthcoming,” WVU Dean of Students, Corey Farris, said according to KDKA.

Some accused Morgantown law enforcement of using too much force on Friday and others questioned the timeline.

“Students got a little too jovial and I’m afraid got carried away,” Morgantown Mayor Bill Kawecki, told The Exponent Telegram Friday.

“It’s unfortunate that they couldn’t simply enjoy the snow without turning it into some circumstance where people were in danger,” he said. “As near as I can tell, the university isn’t receiving it very well either.”

Many on Twitter called out the students for their behavior.

Frieda Powers

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