BOULDER, Colo. — Police say violence and destruction broke out as officers worked to break up a party involving hundreds of people near the University of Colorado Boulder on Saturday.
Police say three officers were injured after they were struck with rocks and bricks. Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said all the injuries were minor. However, one officer came close to sustaining serious injuries, but a gas mask protected the officer's face from a blunt object thrown at police. At one point, Chief Herold says about 100 people charged at officers.
Videos shared on social media show people flooding a street in an area known as University Hill. Most in the crowd of an estimated 500-800 people were not wearing masks or social distancing despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Jeff Zayach, executive director of Boulder County Public Health, said the county and state has made progress in lowering case numbers, but events like these can reverse the trend.
“We have come a long way in Boulder County in reducing our numbers. Our case numbers are dropping, our hospitalizations are dropping. Now is not the time to do these kinds of things. It will reverse the trend, just as it did in early September. And that's the last thing we need in our community,” Zayach said.
At least one car was damaged and flipped over. Police say an armored rescue vehicle and a fire truck sustained heavy damage, as well as other vehicles belonging to residents.
Police resorted to using tear gas to break up the crowd. Herold said at least two canisters of tear gas was used and the crowd was mostly dispersed by 8:30 p.m.
"It took till about 8:35 until we got the crowd contained and the most people dispersed. And we tried to push the crowd to the northeast, away from the business community. So that's how chaotic and you know, just a chaotic experience for the officers," Herold said.
Those living close to the street where the party took place recalled what they heard the previous night.
"I was watching TV but I could hear the helicopters and fireworks," said one woman.
Chief Herold said while there were no arrests made last night, there will be arrests in the coming days. Police say they are reviewing body camera and social media images to identify those responsible.
Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty said his office will work with police in their investigation. He described the rowdy behavior amid the coronavirus pandemic as “selfish.”
"The actions that the people engaged in last night were dangerous, selfish, and in fact criminal. And I can promise you that district attorney's office, along with our partners in law enforcement, regard this conduct is very, very serious," Dougherty said. "We will we will be working very closely with the Boulder Police Department and CU Boulder Police Department as well as other agencies."
In a statement, Dougherty said "there is no excuse for this conduct." He said it would be a mistake to call what happened Saturday night just a "party."
"Certainly, it seems to have started out as a party. But I want to be really clear here. I don't consider flipping over cars, causing property damage — in other words, inflicting property damage upon other private citizens, and then throwing bottles and rocks at fire trucks and police officers as a party. I think it's a mistake for us to classify it as such," Dougherty said.
The university says anyone who engaged in violence towards law enforcement or first responders will be removed and not readmitted. CU Boulder released the following statement Saturday night.
We are aware of a large party on University Hill on Saturday evening and allegations of violence toward police officers responding to the scene. We condemn this conduct. It is unacceptable and irresponsible, particularly in light of the volume of training, communication and enforcement the campus and city have dedicated to ensuring compliance with COVID-19 public health orders. CU Boulder will not tolerate any of our students engaging in acts of violence or damaging property.
CU Boulder has made it clear to our student body that following county public health orders is required under the student code of conduct. The vast majority of our students have followed these directives. When health officials and police have referred public health order violations to our student conduct office, CU Boulder has responded quickly and imposed discipline when violations were established. Disciplinary actions include interim exclusions from campus and 45 suspensions so far this academic year. We will continue to take these actions to make clear that protecting our community and our campus is of utmost importance and that we will not tolerate such violations. Any student who is found responsible for having engaged in acts of violence toward the law enforcement or other first responders will be removed from CU Boulder and not readmitted.
We appreciate the efforts of law enforcement to address the unacceptable conduct of these students and apologize to the residents of University Hill for their behavior.
Homeowners, nearby residents and even students were on University Hill Sunday to cleanup the leftover mess. Those who showed up to help clean Sunday morning were able to clear most of the area by 10 a.m.